Posted by: Jack Henry | September 25, 2018

Editor’s Corner: The Three-Letter Word with over 600 Meanings

Thank you Reader’s Digest, for bringing this interesting fact to my attention! Maybe some of you already read about this, but according to the Reader’s Digest, this common little three-letter wordis “the most complicated, multifaceted word in the English language.”

What word, you ask? Run.

The article states that the definitions of run in the print version of the Oxford English Dictionary start with “to go with quick steps on alternate feet” and then go on to fill 75 columns. Apparently, it took one lexicographer over nine months to research all the definitions. The Reader’s Digest article includes this paragraph to illustrate the many varied meanings of run:

When you run a fever, for example, those three letters have a very different meaning than when you run a bath to treat it, or when your bathwater subsequently runs over and drenches your cotton bath runner, forcing you to run out to the store and buy a new one. There, you run up a bill of $85 because besides a rug and some cold medicine, you also need some thread to fix the run in your stockings and some tissue for your runny nose and a carton of milk because you’ve run through your supply at home, and all this makes dread run through your soul because your value-club membership runs out at the end of the month and you’ve already run over your budget on last week’s grocery run when you ran over a nail in the parking lot and now your car won’t even run properly because whatever idiot runs that Walmart apparently lets his custodial staff run amok and you know you’re letting your inner monologue run on and on but, God—you’d do things differently if you ran the world. Maybe you should run for office.

Before the word run held this prestigious honor, the word with the most definitions in the print version of the Oxford English Dictionary was the word set, which has 200 definitions that begin with “put, lay, or stand (something) in a specified place or position.”

I had no idea!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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Symitar Documentation Services

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