What Are Homonyms?

Homonyms, Homographs,
Homophones and Heteronyms


What are homonyms? How are they different than homographs and homophones? And what about heteronyms?

In this article we are going to answer these questions.

Homonyms

A homonym is a word that has the same spelling and sound as another word, but a different meaning.

For example, saw (a cutting tool) and saw (the past tense of see) are homonyms. They have the same spelling and sound but different meanings.

Homonyms           Homonyms        


Word origin: Greek, "having the same name"
(homos = same, onoma = name)


Partial list of homonyms in English

  • The boys are playing with a ball outside /
    Cinderella met the prince at the ball

  • The bat flies around at night /
    I lost my baseball bat.

  • This book is very interesting /
    I would like to book a flight to Paris.

  • She put her necklace inside the jewelry case /
    In that case, you should go home.

  • In those hot days we used the fan /
    She is a great fan of the band.

  • The old lady couldn't walk fast /
    It is a religious fast.

  • The room seems just fine /
    He got a fine for parking on the sidewalk.

  • They turn left instead of right /
    He left as soon as he could.

  • That is a terrible lie /
    You can lie on your back.

  • Your suitcase was pretty light /
    There is nothing like the light of sun.

  • We are trying to train our dog /
    The train will be here soon.

  • Be careful not to trip /
    They had a wonderful trip to the country.

  • I can't bear this noise any longer /
    There was a giant bear in front of us.

  • I hope that all is going well /
    She lowered her bucket into the well for some water.

Homographs

A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word, but a different meaning.

For example, bow (a weapon for shooting arrows) and bow (bending forward) are homographs. They have the same spelling but different meanings.
Homographs          Homographs


Word origin:
Greek, "having the same writing"
(homos = same, grapho = write)


Partial list of homographs in English

  • I can lift a lot of weight /
    He brought a can of beans.

  • You never close the door /
    They were standing close to each other.

  • We live in the desert /
    You should never desert a friend at a time of need.

  • The officers must lead /
    These batteries have lead inside.

  • You live on the other side /
    We are now live from the crime scene.

  • I'll be with you in a minute /
    Her handwriting is so minute you can hardly see it.

  • He likes to read /
    I read your essay yesterday.

  • I saw a tear in her eye /
    She wanted to tear the letter.

  • The wind was very strong /
    They always wind up eating pizza for dinner.
(Note that these example homographs all have the same spelling and different pronunciation, but homographs can also have the same spelling and pronunciation. In that case, they can be classified as homophones and homonyms, too.)

Homophones

A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word, but a different meaning.

For example, meat and meet are homophones.

Homophones          Homophones


Word origin:
Greek, "having the same sound"
(homos = same, phone = sound)

Partial list of homophones in English

  • I can't bear this noise any longer /
    The poor boy had bare feet.

  • She has long, dark hair /
    The king needed an heir.

  • They can't look him in the eye /
    This is between you and I.

  • You should be together /
    There is a bee in the room.

  • She can buy it in the market /
    Wait for us by the river.

  • Our dear Janet is getting married /
    We saw a deer in the forest.

  • I am doing this for you /
    Four
    bowls of soup, please.

  • He is standing right here /
    We couldn't hear a thing.

  • We arrived an hour ago /
    This is our house.

  • There is a hole in your shirt /
    The whole room was quiet.

  • They know everything about it /
    No, and that's final.

  • She doesn't eat meat /
    We meet every now and then.

  • He has one test left /
    They finally won.

  • You are always right /
    I write my own letters.

  • The sea was calm that day /
    It was too dark to see anything.

  • Jonathan is my son /
    The sun is high up in the sky.

  • Let's go to his place /
    There were two of them /
    I can help, too.

  • He seemed so weak at first /
    It'll probably happen this week.
(Note that these example homophones all have the different spelling and the same pronunciation, but homophones can also have the same spelling and pronunciation. In that case, they can be classified as homographs and homonyms, too.)

There is yet another group of words called heteronyms.

Heteronyms

A heteronym is a word that has the same spelling as another word, but different pronunciation and meaning. The words in the list of homographs above are all heteronyms, too.

Word origin: Greek, "having a different name"
(hetero = different, onym = name)


What Are Homonyms, Homographs, Homophones and Heteronyms – Summary

Homonym = same spelling + same pronunciation + different meaning

Homograph = same spelling (with same pronunciation or not) + different meaning

Homophone = same pronunciation (with same spelling or not) + different meaning

Heteronym = same spelling + different pronunciation + different meaning


A word with:

Same spelling + same pronunciation + same meaning = same word!

Same spelling + same pronunciation + different meaning = homograph, homophone and homonym

Same spelling + different pronunciation + different meaning = homograph and heteronym

different spelling + same pronunciation + different meaning = homophone


See also:

Synonyms and Antonyms

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