Same Word but Different Meanings in English

Words with Multiple Meanings in English: Same Word but a Different English Meaning

Many English words have multiple meanings. This means that the same word, with the same spelling and pronunciation may have more than one meaning. Sometimes the meanings may be very different. This can be confusing for people learning English. You may wonder,” How do I know what the meaning is?” The best way is rely on context, illustrations, or diagrams in the text. However, if you still are not sure of the meaning, look it up. A dictionary will tell you all the meanings of any word. This posting cannot discuss every word with multiple meanings. There are simply too many of them. In this posting, however, I talk about 25 common words with multiple meanings. These are word you may see and hear in your daily life. I show you parts of speech, definitions, and example sentences for each meaning of each word.The download at the end will give you additional practice understanding words with multiple meanings.

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Below is a list of common words with multiple meanings.


  1. bank
  • noun–a place to keep your money.  I don’t have much money in the bank
  • noun–the sides of a river.  My grandfather likes to sit on the banks of the river and fish. 
  • verb–slang–to be sure of something.  I know it will rain today. You can bank on it. 

2. bark

  • verb– to make the loud sound a dog makes.  The dog next door barks all the time. 
  • noun–the rough outer covering of a tree.  That maple tree has a very thick bark

3. bill

  • noun–the notice your receive when you must pay something.  I need to pay my water bill
  • noun–the mouth of a bird, also called a beak.  A toucan has a very large bill

4. break

  • verb–to shatter something.  Be careful. Don’t break that dish. 
  • verb–to tell somebody some news.  I hate to break this to you, but you did not get the job.
  • noun–a rest.  You may take a 10 minute break

5. bug

  •  noun–an insect.  There was an ugly bug crawling up my leg. 
  • verb–to bother someone–slang.  Please don’t bug me. I need to get this done. 
  • verb–to put a secret microphone in a room or in a phone line.  I need to be careful of what I say. I think my phone is bugged. 
  • noun–a problem with a computer program.  This new software has too many bugs


6. charge

  • verb–to apply a purchase to your credit card.  I’d like to charge these shoes, please. 
  • verb–to attack, as an animal.  The mountain lion charged the hiker. 

7. company

  • noun–a business.  My cousin went to work for a new company. 
  • noun–guests.  I want to make something special. We’re having company for dinner. 
  • noun- being with people in friendship.  I enjoy the company of my neighbors. 

8. current

  • noun–electricity.  The current in the United States is different than in Europe. 
  • noun–the movement of the ocean tides.  The current in the ocean can cause you to drown.
  • adjective–about what is going on in the news.  I try to keep up on current events. 


9. date

  • noun-the numbered day on a calendar.  What is the date today, the 25th or the 26th? 
  • noun–an even with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  I’m so excited. Raul asked me out for a date
  • noun–a fruit form a palm tree, often from the Middle East.  In Saudi Arabia they eat dates as they drink coffee. 

10. fair

  • adjective–equal and just.  Bob and I have the same job, but he gets paid more than I do. That isn’t fair
  • noun–an exposition.  My son bought 3 books from the book fair at his school. 
  • adjective–describing pleasant weather. The weather forecast said it will be fair and sunny tomorrow. 
  • adjective–not good, not bad. He did a fair job on his math test. 

11. fast

  • verb–to not eat.  Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. 
  • adverb–with speed.  My brother drives too fast

12. fly

  • noun–an insect that flies and buzzes.  That fly is so annoying! 
  • verb–to sail through the air.  A plane and a bird can fly
  • verb–to rush off quickly–slang.  I’m late. I’ve got to fly. See you tomorrow! 

13. hit

  • verb–to strike someone or something.  Don’t hit your brother. He’s only a baby 
  • noun–a very successful song, movie, play, or book. The movie Titanic was a huge hit all over the world 
  • noun–a site on the internet.  When I googled, “Cats, ” I got many hits 


14. jam

  • noun–jelly.  Would you like some strawberry jam with your toast? 
  • noun–a slowdown in traffic. I was late because there was a traffic jam on 6th Avenue. 
  • noun–a bad situation. I spent all my money in Las Vegas, and now I can’t pay my rent. I’m in a jam

15. left

  • adverb–a direction.  Turn left at the corner. 
  • adjective–describing what remains.  There were only a few people left at the party. 
  • verb–past tense of leave. Sara left work early today. 

16. mine

  • adjective–belonging to me.  That red car is mine
  • noun–an underground location to find gold, silver, diamonds, or coal.  Many people who work in coal mines die of black lung disease. 

17. nail

  • noun–something metal you hit with a hammer.  Hit that nail into the wall, please. 
  • noun–the hard material at the tips of your fingers and toes. I love to paint my nails different colors. 


18. patient

  • adjective–being able to wait without getting angry.  Please be patient. I know the line is long. 
  • noun–a person seeing a doctor or dentist. I went to the doctor because I was sick. I found many other patients sitting in the waiting room. 

19. pool

  • noun–a place to swim. That hotel has an outdoor pool
  • verb–to join resources.  If we pool our money, we will be able to afford a nice wedding gift for Mary and Joe. 
  • noun–billiards. Do you pike to play pool

20. pupil

  • noun–a young student. My daughter is a pupil in the 2nd grade. 
  • noun–the black part of your eye that gets bigger or smaller.  In a dark room, your pupils grow larger. 

21. run

  • verb–to move quickly on your legs.  My brother can run very fast. 
  • verb–to work as a machine.  My car is old, but it runs well. 
  • noun–a quick trip to a nearby location. I need to make a run to the grocery store. I’ll be right back. 


22. season

  • noun–a time of the year.  Summer is my favorite season. 
  • verb–to add spices to food.  I need to season this chicken with garlic. 

23. set

  • noun–a group of related items.  I lost my set of keys. 
  • verb–to put silverware and plates on the table.  Please set the table. Dinner is ready. 
  • verb–to decide on a date for an event.  Mary and Joe set the date for their wedding. 

24. take

  • verb–to move something from one place to another. Take a sweater with you. It’s chilly. 
  • verb–to perform an action. Take a deep breath and relax. 
  • verb–to study a subject. I need to take a business class. 
  • noun–an opinion–slang. My brother likes the candidate form Nevada, but I have a different take on things. 

25. turn

  • verb–to change directions.  Turn right to enter the freeway. 
  • verb-to change and do become completely different. It was warm and sunny this morning, but then it turned cold and snowy. 
  • noun–a time to do an action or activity. Is it my turn to roll the dice? 

You now know many common English words with multiple meanings. Often you can guess the meaning of the word through context. If that is not helpful, however, don’t hesitate to look the word up. The download will give you additional practice understanding words with multiple meanings.

You can download the practice sheet NOW!

Idioms of the day

  1. no picnic–This means something is difficult and not pleasant. I’m glad I moved, but making all the preparations was no picnic
  2. turn a blind eye to–This means to not notice a very obvious problem. Her husband comes home drunk every night, but she turns a blind eye to his problems. She insists that he’s not an alcoholic. 

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