Multiple Meaning Words: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Charla Crews

Charla, an educator for over 30 years, has degrees in Early Childhood Education, SPED, and Educational Leadership.

Dig into this lesson to see if you dig multiple-meaning words. They often confuse readers, as they may sound and look the same, but have different meanings. Head into this lesson to learn ways of keeping multiple-meaning words straight in your head!

What Are Multiple-Meaning Words?

Words that have more than one meaning are called multiple-meaning words. We use them every day and sometimes they can be confusing. Here is an example:

The elephant carried the trunk with its trunk while walking around the tree trunk.

This sounds like a silly sentence, but it isn't. The first time ''trunk'' is used, it refers to a large piece of luggage. The second time, it refers to the nose of an elephant, and the last ''trunk'' refers to the main stem of a tree.

Multiple-meaning words may sound and be spelled alike, but have different meanings. Each time the word trunk is used, the word looks the same; however, it has three different meanings.

How Can Multiple-Meaning Words Be Understood?

Often, multiple-meaning words will have a meaning that is a noun and another meaning that is a verb. For instance, when the word ''punch'' is used as a noun, it names a drink. When it is used as a verb, it means to hit something or someone. Understanding multiple-meaning words will be easier if you try these steps:

Use Context Clues

Context clues may help a reader understand an unknown meaning. They can be before or after the part that is confusing. Sometimes the meaning of the words can be understood with the information that is around the confusing word.

Use Picture Clues

If pictures are available, look at them carefully. They may illustrate the meaning.

Use Sound Clues

Read the sentence aloud. Often, you can hear the difference in a word's pronunciation and better understand the meaning.

Can You Figure Out the Meanings of These Words?

Try using context clues to figure out the meaning of ''back'' in these sentences.

1. We went back to the store because I forgot the ice cream.

2. Granny rubbed the baby's back until he fell asleep.

Which sentence matches the meaning of ''back'' that names a part of the body? The correct answer? Using the context clues, we can see that the second sentence talks about a part of a baby's body.

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