Word sense

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In linguistics, a word sense is one of the meanings of a word.

For example a dictionary may have over 50 different meanings of the word play, each of these having a different meaning based on the context of the word usage in a sentence. For example:

We went to see the play Romeo and Juliet at the theater.

The children went out to play in the park.

In each sentence we associate a different meaning of the word "play" based on hints the rest of the sentence gives us.

Computers or people that read words one at a time must use a process called word sense disambiguation[1][2] to find the correct meaning of a word.

Related terms[edit]

Polysemy is the property of having multiple senses. It differs from homonymy, where two different words (lexemes) happen to have the same spelling and pronunciation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ N. Ide and J. Véronis Word Sense Disambiguation: The State of the Art, Computational Linguistics, 24, 1998, pp. 1-40.
  2. ^ R. Navigli. Word Sense Disambiguation: A Survey, ACM Computing Surveys, 41(2), 2009, pp. 1-69.

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