Learning English can be fun. It can be daunting. It can be empowering. It can also be confusing, on occasion. But one thing it definitely isn’t is boring. Even the most fluent English speakers are often surprised when they discover something new about the language: a grammar rule brought to their attention for the first time, a word that they’d never come across before or, even more surprisingly, a familiar word used in an unexpected way! Yes, it is quite common for one English word to have two (or more) completely different meanings.
The way to tell these same-spelling, different-meaning words apart is to pay attention to the context in which they are being used. This will make much more sense when we see these words in action, so let’s look at some examples.
Here is a word that has more than one meaning:
- as a noun: a place underground from where minerals are extracted
Peter has been working at a coal mine since April.
- as a possessive pronoun: to show possession
This is your bag, not mine.
Isn’t that interesting? The same word—mine—is used in both example sentences, but it means two entirely different things in each.
Here is a list of ten other English words with more than one meaning:
- as a noun: wanting to learn or know more about something
She developed an interest in programming after taking a course in college and now she is a
- as a noun: additional money charged on a borrowed sum
I am paying a high rate of interest on my home loan.
- as a verb: to arouse curiosity or attention
We built interest in our product by outlining its many benefits on our social media channels.
- as a noun: the day of the month or year
We still haven’t set a date for the ceremony.
- as a verb: to show the age of something
This food at this restaurant is delicious but the old-fashioned décor really dates it.
- as a verb: to be involved in some work or an activity
The students hope to engage in a lively discussion with the visiting professor.
- as an adjective: to have formally agreed to marry someone
The engaged couple shared the good news with their friends and family.
- as a verb: to go away from somewhere
Ali leaves for Delhi soon.
- as a verb: to remain
The ink will leave a stain on my shirt.
- as a verb: to deposit or deliver
The delivery person leaves Sharmila’s parcels with her neighbor.
- as a noun: to be absent from work or duty
Gunjan is at home on leave today. She will not be attending the meeting.
- as a noun: a prose, fictionalized narrative in the form of a book that often tells a complex
story with characters and action
My mother’s novel about three generations of women from a small town has won the National Book Award this year.
- as an adjective: something that is unique and interesting
I discovered a novel way to spend less money and save more
- as a noun: a public garden or area for recreation
I am taking my children to play in the park today.
- as a verb: to bring a car or vehicle to a stop for a period of time
We are leaving for the concert now so that we get a good spot to park the car.
- as a verb: to engage in an activity or sport
We are going to play football today.
My band is playing at the City Club on Saturday. Why don’t you come check us out?
- as a verb: to act in a dramatic production
I am playing the role of a politician in my next film.
- as a noun: a theatrical production
Hamlet is my favorite play of all time.
- as an adjective: morally fair, good or proper
The right thing to do now would be to apologize for your mistake.
- as a noun: morally right or just.
He doesn’t seem to understand the difference between right and wrong.
- as a noun: something one has legal or moral claim to
As a citizen of this country I have voting rights.
- as a noun: the direction or location of something
If you look to your right, you will see the Museum of Natural History.
- as a verb: to move faster than while walking
Don’t run down the street, that’s dangerous!
- as a verb: to go somewhere in urgency or distress (not literally “running”, necessarily)
Even as an adult, I run to my mother with all my problems.
- as a verb: to contend in a race of some kind
I intend to run for President four years from now.
- as a noun: a continuous spell of a something
Souvik has a had a run of bad luck this year.
- as a noun: a category of things or people that share something in common
They sell all types of fabric in that store.
- as a verb: to write something on a keypad by pressing keys
Wow! You type very fast!
Now that’s a lot of different meanings for only a few words, isn’t it? And if you’ll believe it – many of these words can be used in even more ways than the ones listed here. But don’t be overwhelmed, a good online or print dictionary will help you find all the meanings of any English word you might encounter. And the more you read and speak in English, the stronger your vocabulary will become.
Here’s another great idea – to really power up your vocabulary try a Burlington English course! We have expert teachers on hand to guide you with our spoken English training courses that will take your language learning journey to the next level.