What is the difference between polysemantic words and homonyms? Definition, examples

When studying Russian you come acrossa lot of terms. In the section "Vocabulary" there are more than two dozen terms that allow explaining various phenomena in the vocabulary of the Russian language. What distinguishes polysemantic words from homonyms, is described later in this article.


Vocabulary is the main section of linguistics.It consists of units - words, through which we can formulate our thoughts. Making out our thoughts with words, we mean what these words mean. Such meanings of words are fixed in dictionaries.

The difference between polysemantic words from homonyms

Each dictionary entry relates an audioa shell of a word with that object or phenomenon that it designates. Lexical meaning from the whole set of features of the word calls the most basic, those that are considered as meaningful.

A word without meaning can not be.And here I have to say about this phenomenon in Russian: some words have one meaning (for example, bandage, analgin, trolley, noun, etc.), and for some (for example, a fire in the oven and in the shower , sleeve shirt and river, etc.).

Unambiguous words in Russian are enoughmany, usually these are terms, the names of animals, plants or the name of some profession. For example, syntax, roe deer, birch, neuropathologist. If everything is clear with this group, then the second one can cause some difficulties in determining: here it is necessary to talk about two terms that differ from each other. They are homonymous and polysemantic words.

Words that have one meaning allow us to build our speech clearly and clearly. With another group the situation is more complicated: their meaning can be understood only from the context.

Examples of homonyms and polysemantic words with careful study show the main differences between these groups from each other.

Many-valued words

When we say a certain sound set with which several objects or phenomena of reality are associated in our mind, then we are dealing with a multivalued word.

Homonyms and polysemantic words. Differences

For example, with the word "star" you can imagine a star in the sky, a star of show business, a starfish.

Multivalued words in Russian are a phenomenonnot uncommon. These are the most frequent, commonly used words. They can have many meanings. So, for example, the word "go" in the dictionary of Ozhegov has twenty-six meanings. Among them are: the time goes by, the hours go by (show the time), the rain goes (drips), the person walks (moves), the coat goes (comes to the face), etc.

Values ​​of a multivalued word have a common component. For example, this is the "direction" of the word "road": an asphalt road, the road to the house, the road of life, the journey.

All values ​​of a multi-valued word are divided into twogroups: the first - the main direct, and the derivatives - portable. The second is the result of transferring the sound-letter shell of the word to another object on some basis. For example, the word "hat" has the meaning "headpiece" and "part of the fungus", a common sign of the "field of circular shape".

As a result of such a transfer,metaphor and metonymy. Metaphor is a transfer based on similarity: by form (bell button); by color (gray clouds); location (the tail of the aircraft), by function (an entrance visor). Metonymy draws an emotional picture (a storm of applause - a loud ovation, living in a hole is bad).

And now let's see what distinguishes polysemantic words from homonyms.

Examples of homonyms and multi-valued words


This is another group of words in the Russian language. They have similarities in writing and pronunciation, but they mean completely different things. For example, a braid - a female hairdo and an agricultural implement, glasses - a device for improving eyesight and score in the game.

Thus, similarity on some basis is what distinguishes polysemantic words from homonyms.

Types of homonyms

Homonyms are divided into the following types:

  • Homographs are words written in the same way, but pronounced differently; for example, "zamok" - "zamok";
  • homophones - are equally heard, but differently written; for example, "raft" - "fruit";
  • Omoforms are words that coincide in some grammatical form; for example, "glass" is a noun and a verb in the past tense.


The modern poet Alexander Kushner has a poem "We and the Alien Bill", where both homonyms and polysemantic words are visually represented: the differences between the two groups are very well seen.

We were admiring walruses on the Neva,

As they sailed, they were squeezed by ice.

A foreigner named Bill

He was with us and surprised everyone:

"You say that it's a walrus,

What is she wearing a hat, like a swimmer? "...

"It's a pity," I said, "that the Muscovites in the final

The Leningraders took away their points. "

A foreigner named Bill

He was with us and surprised everyone:

"Give," he said, "to get to New York,

I will send glasses to the dear Leningraders. "

Many-valued words refer to objects that have a similar feature. Many words in this poem is the word walrus - a large northern sea animal and a lover of winter swimming. The general semantic part, uniting these values, is the ability to swim in icy water.

Multivalued words in Russian

An alien named Bill did not understand the meaning of the word spectacles. He thought that this is a subject for improving vision, and the poem speaks of an account in a sports game. Between the lexical meanings of these words there is no similarity. It's homonymous.

Dictionaries can be used to distinguish these terms. In them, with the help of special notes, it is shown which words are multi-valued and which are homonymous.

The causes of the appearance of homonyms

Linguists explain the reasons for the appearance of homonyms in the Russian language.

  1. Borrowings lead to the fact that foreignthe word can match in writing and sound. For example, the German word "marriage" (flaw), appearing in our language, coincided with the Russian "marriage" (family relations).
  2. With word formation using the available inlanguage tools (roots and affixes) also appear the same words. For example, the word "fort" with the meaning "place of the ancient settlement" coincided with the later formed identical, but with the meaning "huge city".
  3. There is a change in the native Russian words under the influence of the processes that operate in the language. For example, the word "bow", which had the meaning "ancient weapons", acquired a new meaning "vegetable garden".
  4. The disintegration of a multivalued word also leads to the appearance of homonyms. So the word "light" in the meaning of "the universe, the world" has acquired a new "dawn, morning."
    Types of homonyms

Knowing the processes that occur in the language, one can understand the difference between polysemantic words from homonyms.

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