Polysemy! That’s the concept I was looking for.
Polysemy, the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, is common in almost every field or knowledge domain. Here are a few examples:
1. **General English Language**: “Bank” can refer to a financial institution, the edge of a river, or a turn in aviation, among other things.
2. **Computer Science**: “Thread” might refer to a lightweight process or a sequence of posts on a discussion forum.
3. **Biology and Literature**: The word “cell” in biology refers to the basic structural unit of an organism, while in literature (or the broader field of communication), it can refer to a small group acting as part of a larger organization or movement.
4. **Business and Physics**: “Force” in business might refer to a sales force or workforce, i.e., a group of people working towards a common goal, while in physics it has a very specific meaning related to the interaction that changes the motion of an object.
5. **Music and Mathematics**: The term “harmony” in music refers to the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions, while in mathematics it could refer to a harmonic function or harmonic series.
6. **Medicine and Cooking**: “Culture” in medicine refers to the cultivation of bacteria or tissue cells in a prepared medium, while in cooking, culture could refer to fermentation or to a specific set of cooking traditions and practices.
7. **Psychology and Information Technology**: The term “memory” in psychology is the mental capacity to encode, store, and retrieve information, while in information technology, it refers to a physical device used to store data temporarily or permanently.
These are just a few examples. The potential for polysemy exists wherever language is used, and it is one of the reasons why clear and effective communication can sometimes be challenging.