Well 'opposite' may not be the right word to describe it but here is the question.

Polysemy is the capacity for a symbol to have multiple meanings. On the other hand, a meaning can be described by multiple symbols (George W. Bush, President Bush, etc). Is there a term to describe the second situation?


2 Answers 2


I've looked for possible meanings and stumbled upon "multinymy" and its synonym "polynymy" in "Standardizing and Harmonizing Terminology: Theory and Practice" by Sue Ellen Wright and Richard A Strehlow, editors.

It's not a common term, and I've not encountered it before, yet it might help.

  • Thanks. I am thinking, well not entirely correct, but 'synonymy'?
    – zig
    Oct 29, 2015 at 17:01
  • No, synonymy is similarity in meaning of different symbols, not the same meaning described by multiple symbols. Between synonyms there is always some, even if minute, difference. Oct 29, 2015 at 17:04

In almost any credible context where the two concepts might be juxtaposed, it would seem to make sense to use words that are structurally "opposite". From dictionary.reference.com...

monosemy -the fact of having only a single meaning; absence of ambiguity in a word.

Both those terms are from the perspective of a single word/symbol. If an encoding system contains multiple (monosemic or polysemic) symbols with the same meaning, that's [semantic] redundancy.


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