An ELT Glossary : Polysemy

  • Definition : The relationship between words which have the same form and different but related meanings.

  • Example :  branch (of a tree) and branch (of a bank, family or other organisation). The meanings are related - an organigram of a bank, would resemble a tree.

  • Polysemes should not be confused with homonyms which are words which, by chance have the same form, but have unrelated different meanings – eg bank (of a river) and bank (financial organisation).