4th Grade - Words With Multiple Meanings

Words with multiple meanings
Distinguish and interpret words with multiple meanings.
Ability to identify and understand words with multiple meanings, or homonyms. Homonyms include homographs and homophones. Homographs are words with multiple meanings across disciplines or context areas. They look like the exact same word (same spelling, usually same sounds, etc.) but their definitions or meanings are different, depending on the context in which they are used. Homophones are words with different spellings, but are pronounced using the same sounds.  homo = same + nym = name + graph = writing (spelling) + phone = sound

Sample Problems


What are homographs? (Single words with more than one meaning or definition and the same spelling.)


What about homographs can vary, or change? (pronunciation and/or part of speech)


What are words that sound the same but have different spellings called? (homophones)


What does multiple mean? (many, more than one)


What is another word for meaning? (definition)

Learning Tips


Get two buckets or cups and label them HOMOGRAPHS and HOMOPHONES. Use index cards or small pieces of paper to write many, varied examples of each. Have the child sort the words in the buckets and then take turns pulling them out of the buckets. When selecting a homophone, the challenge is to spell the other definition of the similar-sounding word. When selecting a homograph, the challenge is to think of at least two different meanings or definitions of the words and use each in a sentence.

Examples to start with:


- right, write - tear (n.), tear (v.)

- hair, hare - jump (n.), jump (v.)
- plain, plane - jolt (n.), jolt (v.)
- peace, piece - plant (n.), plant (v.)
- leave, leaf - fence (n.), fence (v.)
- pedal, petal - bowl (n.), bowl (v.)
- principle, principal - glass (n. – cup), glass
(n.- material)

Look around the house for other ideas!


Make an A-B-C book of multiple meaning words (homographs).


Make jokes or riddles using multiple meaning words (homographs) to be silly or confuse people.

Examples: Would you rather have peace or a piece of cake?

Where could a mechanic find a petal? …On a flower but it

would not do him much good!


Share factoids (things that few people know) of lesser known meanings of multiple meaning words with friends or family members – teach someone else!


Challenge a partner to see who can use a homograph twice in one sentence (they can be long but have to be complete) with two different meanings of the word.

Examples: Grandpa said if I bowl a 200, he’ll buy me a bowl of my favorite ice cream!

Extra Help Problems


What are homophones? (Single words that sound the same in pronunciation but have different spellings.)


What is similar about homographs and homophones? (They have multiple meanings and sound alike.)


What is different about homographs and homophones? (Homographs are spelled alike while homophones are spelled differently.)


What are homographs and homophones called? (Homonyms)


What is an example of a homograph that begins with “a”? (air as in what we breath and air as in on-air in television)


What is an example of a homophone that begins with “a”? (ail as in getting sick, ale as in the drink)


What can you use to figure out the meaning of a word? (context, its part of speech in the sentence)


What is a pattern that often helps reveal when a word is a homograph? (the parts of speech are different)


How do parts of speech relate to the meaning? (a word that looks and sounds the same could have more than one part of speech, therefore more than one meaning = homograph)


What are words that look and sound alike but mean different things in different disciplines, or areas? (homographs or multiple meaning words)


If a biologist used the word ‘cell’, what would it mean? (a small part of a living thing) What is its part of speech in this context? (noun)


If a police officer used the word ‘cell’, what would it mean? (a small area or place where prisoners are kept) What is its part of speech in this context? (noun)


If a salesman used the word ‘sell’, what would it mean? (to get others to buy something) What is its part of speech in this context? (verb)


What is a fact? (something true, right, sure to be)


What is a factoid? (something that is true but less important or non-significant information)


If it is a fact that homographs have multiple (two or more) meanings, what could be a factoid? (the less important or lesser known meaning)


Related Games


Copyright ©2009 Big Purple Hippos, LLC