What word can I use for things with the same external appearance but with different inherent meanings.

For example, assume that in a social network, different users make friendships. All of the relations are thus friendship relations, a single type of relation. However, from an analytical viewpoint they may have different meanings/intents/... . For example, one may have been formed because the two persons are relative, another may have been formed because they are colleagues, and another may have been formed because one is interested in the posts the other person posts. These different meanings/intents/... may have different effects in some application.

Is modal a good word to be used in these examples: multi-modal relationships, modal-specific networks (a network in which all relations have a single meaning). What about modality? (e.g., multi-modality)

  • If you don't get an answer here, consider asking on ELU. – user3395 Dec 27 '18 at 20:32
  • Isn't it against StackExchange rules to ask a question in two places? – Shayan Dec 28 '18 at 15:05
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    I mean you can delete the question and then re-ask it there? See this for more information. – user3395 Dec 28 '18 at 16:11

Unfortunately, what you're looking for is going to be field-specific jargon, not general English meaning.

In my field, "modal" has a few meanings and none of them fit your example. However, someone from psychology or social science might very well use I this way. They might also suggest using "mode", "variant", or "version" instead. (I don't know, not being in those fields.)

If you were operating in my area of expertise, I'd use category (things with different versions in the same group) or equivalence class or variant/version. I'd use isomorphic as an antonym (things which look different but are actually the same underneath).

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