Am curious as to the number of homographs (sets of word meanings that share a common spelling) that occur in the English language. Also what the current state of the art would be for automatically differentiating senses.

The GloVe project makes available a word vector model with a 2.2 million vocabulary based on 840 billion tokens (taken from the Common Crawl dataset] - unfortunately from my understanding there model takes no account of homographs and I'm firstly trying to get a feel for how much of an effect that would have, and secondly thinking of how to go about recreating a similar model using word senses instead of words.

  • Is "hard" one or not? (goes to the question of counting meanings)
    – user6726
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 1:00
  • well 'hard' surfaces, and 'hard' problems shouldn't be using the same word vector in my view
    – norlesh
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 1:03
  • True homographs have different origins. If you really just mean common spellings then you should call them polysemous words instead.
    – amI
    Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


While this Wikipedia page on English homographs as it stands lists 164, as the following paper title suggests: University of Alberta norms of relative meaning frequency for 566 homographs there are substantially more, the same paper referencing other studies finding as much as 44% of randomly sampled words forms have multiple meaning (and 85% of the most common words in the language).

According to the University of Alberta study

many of the homographs in our list have more than two meanings; nearly half (230) have three or more meanings, and 75 have four or more meanings

as to using separated word senses to build word vector models - according to this answer on Quora something close to the state of the art (published 2015) can be found in the paper Breaking Sticks and Ambiguities with Adaptive Skip-gram which describes the AdaGram model that from my limited understanding estimates and differentiates word senses as it builds the model with similar computation requirements to word2vec.

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