Word of the month: Set

Word of the Month_NovemberIt is a bank holiday here in France and therefore a perfect day to finally give you the next Word-of-the-Month post.

I haven’t written anything in a while as I have had some health related problems which meant that I never gave you a “Word of the Month” in October. For those who were waiting I apologise and promise that you will like this word of the month:


I chose this word for one reason and one reason only. It is the word in the Oxford dictionary which currently holds the record in having the most meanings. If I let you guess how many meanings it has what would your number be? 28, 59, 100? If you are anywhere near these numbers, you are not even close.

Set has a staggering 464 number of meanings! I will not list them all here but I will give you some examples.

Word Origin

First of all, set can be used both as a noun and as an adjective. It is an Old English word of Germanic origin. Just look at the Dutch “zetten” and the German “setzen” which illustrate the close relation clearly. There is even an Egyptian God named “Set” who is the God of (thunder)storms, earthquakes and chaos. I see no obvious relation to the English meaning of the word but it’s nevertheless interesting to know.


As I said this word has exceptionally many meanings and it is used in lots of ways.

One of the more common ways of using set is to describe the action of putting or laying something in a specific place or position. Sarah set the mug of tea on the table. However, it can also mean that something is situated in a specific place. The castle was set among vineyards in the Italian countryside (OCD).

You will also find lots of phrases using set.

To set one’s heart on sth.

To set sail

To set the wheels in motion

And of course there are a bucket load of phrasal verbs:

Set about doing sth.

Set sth. apart

Set sth. aside

Sth. sets in

Set sth. off


Kira Petersen

Photo by Breather