Grammar: Monosemy

Posted September 12, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Monosemy is a very restricted type of linguistic word play as there is only one word and that one word has only one meaning. And obviously, it’s pronounced the same…*eye roll*…

Monosemies are a subset under homographs, which is itself a subset under homonym (see Table 1 below).

If you break monosemy apart:

Mono- means one

-seme is from sēma and means sign

When a word has just one meaning, it’s completely clear and unambiguous — monosemic. While there are a number of everyday sort of words that are monosemous, most of them are scientific or technical terms, which tend to remain monosemous simply because they are confined to a particular field.

The polysemous words, the opposite of monosemy, are much more common in English.

Click here for a quick look at the differences between them -nyms, -graphs, -phone, and -semys.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone on an area of grammar with which you struggle or on which you can contribute more understanding.

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Credit to: UC-Santa Barbara;
Part of Speech: Semantics, Word Play, Figure of Speech
Definition: A word or phrase that has but one meaning and there is no question as to what is meant.
aunt sister of your father or mother lucrative producing a great deal of profit
cellphone a telephone with access to a cellular radio system so it can be used over a wide area, without a physical connection to a network dahlia a tuberous-rooted Mexican plant of the daisy family, cultivated for its brightly colored single or double flowers
ocarina a small egg-shaped wind instrument with a mouthpiece and holes for the fingers meson a subatomic particle that is intermediate in mass between an electron and a proton and transmits the strong interaction that binds nucleons together in the atomic nucleus
stallion an uncastrated adult male horse cousin related to
spatula an implement with a broad, flat, blunt blade, used for mixing and spreading things, especially in cooking and painting microscope an optical instrument used for viewing very small object

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

The “gray casserole dish from above” and “burgundy casserole dish” are Juan de Vojníkov’s own work [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; “Cottage Cheese Pie” is FDominec’s own work [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons; “3 roasting pans in different sizes and colors” is Diana 8220’s own work [CC BY-SA 3.0], also via Wikimedia Commons; and, “Preparation Casserole Piece of Juneda (Step 3)” is Kit-arras’ own work in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.