Accomplishments and Records

What English Word Holds the Record for the Most Definitions?

The English language is robustly filled with many homonyms — words that have multiple meanings. The word bark can refer to the outer covering of a tree as well as the sound an English-speaking dog makes. The word foot can be the appendage at the end of your leg, and it can also be a unit of measurement.

The Oxford English Dictionary has entries for over 600,000 words. Which of them would you guess has the most definitions?

Guinness World Records gives the honor — for now, anyway — to set. The Oxford English Dictionary ascribes 430 distinct definitions and nuances to the word. It also commands the longest entry in the dictionary at 60,000 words or 326,000 characters.

While set holds the honor for now, it is not set in stone. The sun appears to be setting on the set of set’s reign. The next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (expected in 2037) seems poised to name a new champion. The word run is on track to surpass set as having the most definitions. Only time will tell if set’s days of glory will run out as run runs a new run.

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