I guess "meaning" is one of the most commonly used words on this site. However, I am not sure whether I understand and use it correctly.

Cambridge Dictionary gives this definition about "meaning"

The meaning of something is what it expresses or represents

and gives this example

The word "flight" has two different meanings: a plane journey, and the act of running away.

which means that, a word could have multiple meanings.

so far so good.

An ELL post says

I think the two sentences have identical meanings.

I understand the sentence conveys that those two sentences mean the same thing. I don't understand why do there exist two identical meanings. Provided two sentences mean the same thing, there should be only one meaning. What am I missing? Could someone please give a hint? Thanks in advance.

3 Answers 3


Another way to say it is "The two sentences have the same meaning."
The way it was expressed, "have identical meanings", is another way to say the same thing. The perspective is from before the sentences were found to have the same meaning. But this is picking nits, isn't it?

  • Isn't it fun trying to define a word without using it in the definition.
    – user19179
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 5:32

Two sentences can have an identical meaning in that they convey the same thing using different words. One is present tense and the other past tense. Try 'definition' in situations where the word 'meaning' is misleading.


You could say

The values "1+3" and "2+2" are equal.

Each expression has a value (hence two "values") but we assert that these are the same. In a similar way

The names of my builder and my plumber are both "John".

Both men have a name (two names) it just happens that these are identical.

So this is what is asserted in your quote. To paraphrase:

The meanings of the sentences are identical.

Each sentence has a meaning (two sentences, two meanings) it just happens that we claim that these are the same.

  • Thank you. "Two men have two names", I clearly understand. The question is that, does the sentence "two men have identical names" sound natural?
    – WXJ96163
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 10:53

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