Words That Have Multiple Meanings Can Be Challenging

If you think that translation is easy, think again. Many people believe that it’s a simple matter of taking a word in one language, finding the meaning of that word in another language, and plugging it into a sentence. The truth is, it’s far from that simple.

The Thorns of the English Language

If you consider the English language to be a beautiful rose, you’ll see how certain words can resemble the thorns. Some of the trickiest words can seem to be so simple at first glance. Certain English language words are spelled the same and pronounced the same, but have totally different meanings. These are called homonyms, and they can cause quite the translation error if not placed in the right context. For example, “The little word ‘run’ — in its verb form alone — has 645 distinct meanings” (NPR.org).

Below is just a small sample of these homonyms, along with their common definitions, that can cause confusion no matter where you find them or how you “read” them.


  • Noun – something that a person is entitled to do, have, or say.
  • Adjective – being correct, as in a word or action.
  • Adverb – the direction that is opposite of left.


  • Noun – the damage that results from being torn, or to move at a hurried pace.
  • Verb – to pull something apart by force, or the actual act of pulling it apart, or even to remove something with force.


  • Noun – the action of reading (as in “giving a book a read”).
  • Verb – to deliver words aloud from something in writing, to study the words of something (such as the law), or even to interpret the meaning of something.


  • Noun – a large amount of something or a retail business that sells goods.
  • Verb – to put something away for future use.

These examples don’t even touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tricky words. There are many words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings, called homophones. Then there are words that are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently and have different meanings, called homographs. We’ll dig deeper into these in a future post.

We Know the Difference

Although any language can play tricks upon its readers, our professional translators are no match for the “tears” and “reads” that come along with them. They understand how to scan the document for context in order to translate meaning exactly how it’s intended. With translators throughout the world, you can be sure that you’re getting the most relevant translation possible.

Our translators are also considered to be specialists in the area in which they translate. For example, you won’t have a technical translation specialist translating a menu for the agro-food industry, as this is an area that needs precise translation to avoid a food faux pas that can sound utterly unappetizing.

Having a professional translation company ensure that your message gets across the right way is essential to your business and reputation. Ready to see how amazing we can be? Contact us today to find out.

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