Common English words that also have a second, less common and unrelated meaning

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

There are a few English words that have a primary meaning (or sometimes several predominant meanings) which is the one you think of when you see the word, and also another, secondary meaning which often remains unknown to learners for years. Here are the most common such words (only the less known meaning is explained):

  • a pen is a piece of land sorrounded by a fence in which animals are kept.
  • down as a noun means very soft feathers of a bird or very soft hair.
  • punch is a drink made by mixing water, fruit juice, spices and an alcoholic beverage.
  • a band is a strip put around things, for example babies sometimes have name bands on their hands.
  • to fast means to eat little or no food.
  • mean means “average”, for example “the mean age of a group”.
  • a hide an is animal’s skin, especially when it is used for leather.
  • to rack means to make somebody suffer great physical or mental pain.
  • a bank is a side of a river or a raised area of land dividing something.
  • to rock means to move gently from side to side or backwards and forwards.
  • a spoke is thin rod connecting the centre of a wheel and its outer edge.
  • to true means to straighten or align, e.g. “to true the spokes of a bicycle wheel”.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.