Lexical Relations: Hyponymy and Homonymy

This article studies the lexical relations Hyponymy and Homonymy with their examples in brief.
Lexical Relations: Hyponymy and Homonymy

The branch of semantics that deals with word meaning is called lexical semantics.

It is the study of systematic meaning related structures of words. Lexical field or semantic field is the organization of related words and expressions in to a system which shows their relationship within one another.e.g. set1 angry, sad, happy, depressed, afraid.

This set of words is a lexical field all its words refer to emotional states. Lexical semantics examines relationships among word meanings. It is the study of how the lexicon is organized and how the lexical meanings of lexical items are interrelated, and it's principal goal is to build a model for the structure of the lexicon by categorizing the types of relationships between words.

Hyponymy , homonymy, polysemy, synonymy, antonymy and metonymy are different types of lexical relations.

Here Hyponymy and Homonymy are discussed in brief.


Hyponymy is a relation between two words in which the meaning of one of the words includes the meaning of the other word. The lexical relation corresponding to the inclusion of one class in another is hyponymy.

A hyponym is a subordinate, specific term whose referent is included in the referent of super ordinate term.

E.g. Blue, Green are kinds of color. They are specific colors and color is a general term for them.

Therefore, color is called the super ordinate term, and blue, red, green, yellow, etc are called hyponyms.

A super ordinate can have many hyponyms. Hyponymy is the relationship between each lower term and the higher term (super ordinate). It is a sense relation. It is defined in terms of the inclusion of the sense of one item in the sense of another. E.g. The sense of animal is included in the sense of lion.

Hyponymy is not restricted to objects, abstract concepts, or nouns. It can be identified in many other areas of the lexicon.

E.g. the verb cook has many hyponyms.
Word: Cook
Hyponyms: Roast, boil, fry, grill, bake, etc.

Word: color
Hyponyms: blue, red, yellow, green, black and purple.

In a lexical field, hyponymy may exist at more than one level. A word may have both a hyponym and a super ordinate term.

For example,
Word: Living
Hyponym: bird, insects, animals

Now let's take the word bird from above hyponyms.
Word: Bird
Hyponyms: sparrow, hawk, crow, fowl

We thus have sparrow, hawk, crow, fowl as hyponyms of bird and bird in turn is a hyponym of living beings. So there is a hierarchy of terms related to each other through hyponymic relations.

Hyponymy involves the logical relationship of entailment. E.g.
'There is a horse' entails that 'There is an animal.'

Hyponymy often functions in discourse as a means of lexical cohesion by establishing referential equivalence to avoid repetition.


The word Homonym has been derived from Greek term 'Homoios' which means identical and 'onoma' means name.

Homonyms are the words that have same phonetic form (homophones) or orthographic form (homographs) but different unrelated meanings.

The ambiguous word whose different senses are far apart from each other and are not obviously related to each other in any way is called Homonymy. Words like tale and tail are homonyms. There is no conceptual connection between its two meanings.

For example the word 'bear', as a verb means 'to carry' and as a noun it means 'large animal'.

An example of homonym which is both homophone and homograph is the word 'fluke'. Fluke is a fish as well as a flatworm. Other examples are bank, an anchor, and so on.

Homophony - Homophony is the case where two words are pronounced identically but they have different written forms. They sound alike but are written differently and often have different meanings. For example: no-know, led-lead, would-wood, and so on.

Homograph - Homograph is a word which is spelled the same as another word and might be pronounced the same or differently but which has a different. For example, Bear-bear.

When homonyms are spelled the same they are homographs but not all homonyms are homographs.

Lexical Semantics- by D.A. cruse
Semantics- a course book by James R. Hurford , Brendan Heasley
Semantics- a new outline by F. R. Palmar,
Longman Dictionary of applied Linguistics by Jack Richards, John Platt, Heidi Weber.
Published: 9/4/2009
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