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Many words have more than one meaning. We call these multiple meaning words. There are two main types of multiple meaning words:

  • Multiple Meaning Wordsthose that sound alike (also known as homographic homophones, or homonyms) -- "Scale the fish completely before weighing it on the scale."

  • those that sound different (also known as homographic heterophones, or heteronyms) -- "I drove down the windy road on a windy day."

Within these two main groups, multiple meaning words can have differences:

  • different capitalization -- "You may see a rainbow in May."

  • different punctuation -- "I sent my résumé hoping to find a job and resume working."

  • different parts of speech -- "I like to run" (verb) vs. "I like to go for a run" (noun)

  • different tense -- "I would like to read the book you just read."

  • different degrees (literal or figurative) -- "The general ranks above the corporal" vs. "The plane flies above the rooftops."

Multiple Meaning Word Lists
K - 2nd Grade 3rd - 5th Grade 6th - 8th Grade 9th - 12th Grade

Some don't just have different meanings, they have outright opposite connotations. The technical term for this type of multiple meaning word is "contranyms" (also autantonyms or antagonyms). Examples include clip (to attach or to separate) and certain (particular or indeterminate).

Students can learn to distinguish multiple meaning words by playing our interactive vocabulary building games. Another fun exercise is to have students do a sentence writing activity using two or more multiple meaning words. Here are some examples:

  • Never desert your friends in the desert.

  • Close the window before the bee gets too close.

  • Lead poisoning can lead to health issues.

  • Does the deer see the does?

  • The dove dove down to its nest.

  • Shut your mouth or a fly might fly into it.

Once our system is able to support words that are spelled alike but pronounced differently, we will be updating the lists to include those multiple meaning words as well, so check back soon for more multiple meaning words!

The complete standards correlation for this activity is coming soon!

CCSS Anchor Standards

Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

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