Learn English – Words with most meanings


I am not a native speaker and it sometimes surprise me how many different meanings some words have. An example is the word call – when I was learning English I thought it was only "shout" or "to ring someone" but the list of meanings is almost endless: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/call .

What are some other such words so that I can be careful when interpreting their meaning? As if I could execute the query "give me a top ten list of words with most definition lines on TheFreeDictionary".

Best Answer

For a long time, "set" had the most meanings in the OED, but now it is "run". From the New York Times of 25th May 2011:

Which is the most lustrously complex word among the three quarters of a million or so words and senses that make up this vast mongrel tongue we know as the English language?

Well, according to the O.E.D.’s chief editor, John Simpson, we now have a winner — and a winner that may well say something about the current state of English-speaking humankind. For while in the first edition of the O.E.D., in 1928, that richest-of-all-words was “set” (75 columns of type, some 200 senses), the victor in today’s rather more frantic and uncongenial world is, without a doubt, the three-letter word “run.”

... Mr. Gilliver has finally calculated that there are for the verb-form alone of “run” no fewer than 645 meanings. A record.

In terms of sheer size, the entry for “run” is half as big again as that for “put,” a word on which Mr. Gilliver also worked some years ago. But more significantly still, “run” is also far bigger than the old chestnut “set,” a word that, says Mr. Gilliver, simply “hasn’t undergone as much development in the 20th and 21st centuries as has ‘run.’ ”

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