Posted by: Jack Henry | July 13, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Words with Different Meanings

Good morning, friends.

Kara and I receive a lot of emails from various sources to help us keep up with grammar rules, language trends, and fun facts about English. One of our new favorites is a daily email we receive called A.Word.A.Day.

Each week focuses on a new theme. A recent theme was “words with many meanings.” These are not common words like set, for which the Oxford dictionary lists 500 different “senses.” But the fact that they’re not common is one of the things I found interesting. I hope you agree.

Here are the five words, their varied meanings, and their etymology, supplied by A.Word.A.Day:

  • dobber (noun)


  1. An informer
  2. In cricket, a bowler, especially a slow bowler
  3. A float for a fishing line
  4. A large marble


    • For 1, 2: From dob (to inform, to put down, to throw)
    • For 3: From Dutch dobber (float, cork)
    • For 4: From dob, a variant of dab (lump)
    • Earliest documented use: 1836

To see usage examples click here.

A cricket dobber (slow bowler/pitcher)

  • bruit (noun or verb)

Meaning for nouns:

  1. Rumor
  2. Report
  3. Noise
  4. An abnormal sound heard in internal organs in the body during auscultation

Meaning for verbs:

  1. To report
  2. To repeat
  3. To spread a rumor

Etymology: From Anglo-Norman bruire (to make a noise), from Latin brugere, a blending of rugire (to roar) + bragire (to bray). Earliest documented use: 1400.

To see usage examples click here.

  • cameo (noun)


  1. A small sculpture carved in relief on a background of another color
  2. A short description, literary sketch, etc., that effectively presents the subject
  3. A very brief appearance by a well-known actor or celebrity in a film, typically in a non-speaking role
  4. A brief appearance or a minor role.

Etymology: From Italian cammeo, from Latin cammaeus. Earliest documented use: 1561.

To see usage examples click here.

A cameo carved in a shell

A cameo by Alfred Hitchcock in the movie Strangers on a Train.

  • pillbox (noun)


1. A small container for pills

2. A small fortified enclosure, used for firing weapons, observing, etc.

3. A small brimless hat with a flat top and straight sides

4. Something small or ineffectual

Etymology: From pill, from Latin pilula (little ball), from pila (ball) + box, from Old English, from Latin buxis, from pyxis (boxwood box), from Greek pyxis, from pyxos (box tree). Earliest documented use: 1702.

To see usage examples click here.

A pillbox enclosure

Jackie O in a pillbox hat

  • plight (noun or verb)

Meaning for nouns:

1. An unfortunate situation

2. A pledge

3. A fold, wrinkle, braid, etc. Also called plait or pleat

Meaning for verbs:

1. To become engaged to marry

2. To promise [dbb – As in “I plight thee my troth,” which you sometimes hear in wedding vows.]

3. To fold, wrinkle, braid, etc.


    • For noun/verb 1, 2: From Old English pliht (danger)
    • For noun/verb 3: From Anglo-Norman plit (fold, wrinkle, condition), from Latin plicare (to fold)
    • Earliest documented use: 450

To see usage examples click here.

A plight, or unfortunate situation

Have a lovely day today!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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