Homonym

What Is Homonym?

Homonym is a group of words or a pair of two words that share the same pronunciation or sound alike with one another; some homonym(s) are spelled the same or differently and they all have separate meanings and origins. Note the examples below!

HomonymMeaning
Stalk (Noun)a part of a plant
Stalk (Verb) to follow or harass a person
HomonymMeaning
Write (Verb)to write on a surface
Right (Noun)opposite of wrong or left

The word homonym is etymologically derived from the Greek word ὁμώνυμος (homonumos), literally means “having the same name”, which is the conjunction of ὁμός (homos), “common” or “same” and ὄνομα (onoma) meaning “name”. Thus, it refers to two or more distinct concepts sharing the “same name” or “signifier”.

A homonym can be a word that sounds the same as some other word(s) — like “by” (near), and “buy” (purchase) — or it can be spelled exactly the same way and pronounced differently — like “minute” (unit of time) and “minute” (tiny).

Confused huh? Let’s approach it on a much more simplified way:

  • A group of two or more words are homonyms if they are pronounced or spelled the same way even though they mean different things.

When you come across two words with identical pronunciation or spellings that both means something different; just have at the back of your mind that they are homonym(s).

That being said, let's focus on another segment where we'll discuss the two common types of Homonym — which are HomographOpens in new window and HomophoneOpens in new window

Homograph refers to (a pair of) two words that share the same spelling with one another, and differ in meaning, regardless of their sound or pronunciation e.g. “lead” (to go in front of) and “lead” (a metal).

Homophones are (a pair of) two words that share the same pronunciation or the same sound with one another, and differ in meaning regardless of their spelling e.g. “to/two/too” and “pray/prey”.

Important Hint!  

Note that the suffix (ending) –graph means drawn or written (as to spelling); invariably homographs have the same spellings; while the ending –phone means sound or voice (as to pronunciation); that being said, homophones, invariably have the same pronunciations. The following diagram illustrates this relationship.

diagram showing relationship between homonym and other linguistic concepts
Fig1. Diagram showing relationship between homonym and related linguistic concepts.

Whew, congratulations you made it to this point! Now let’s go back to homonyms; homonyms are the larger category to which homographOpens in new window and homophoneOpens in new window are subset.

List of Homonyms and Description
HomonymsDescription
Advice: (Noun) A formal recommendation or information, usually from a formal authority.
Advise: (Verb)To give guidance or counsel someone, as in: my teacher's advice enable me improve on my studies.
Aid: (Verb)To provide someone with assistance or what is required to get something done.
Aide: (Noun)Somebody as an assistant, usually in public offices.
Alloud: (Adverb)Speaking in such loud manner as to be heard audibly.
Allowed: (Verb) To grant access; allow someone participate in something.
Altar: (Noun)A sanctimonious place; a designated worship centre in religious houses.
Alter: (Verb)To change a state of something.
Bail 1: (Verb)
Bail 1: (Noun)
Bail 2: (Verb)
Bail(s) 3: (Noun)
To release someone from custody temporarily.
Someone who pays for someone's bail.
To empty out water from a sinking boat.
Either of the two woods used to make the cricket. see dictionary for clarification
Bait: (Noun)Food for attracting animals; a means of enticement to lure someone
Bate: (Verb)(Of a hawk) beat wings in agitation and flutter off a perch (term used in falconry)
Bare: (Adjective)literally naked; or lacking coverings.
Bear: (Verb)To hold, support, tolerate something. see dictionary for more sense
Bear: (Noun)A large, heavy mammal of the family Ursidae, of which there are several species, the largest being the Kodiak Bear of the Arctic regions. likewise, see dictionary for more sense
Berry 1: (Noun) A small juicy or fleshy fruit; a soft fleshy fruit that contains many seeds.
Berry 2: (Verb)To hunt or gather berries for consumption.
Bury (Verb)

Bury (Noun)
To put something in hole (bury a dead); to hide something
A city in Lancashire, northwestern England.
Bite: (Verb)To grip something with teeth; Take the bait at the end of the fishing net into mouth.
Byte: (Noun)A unit of computer memory equal to that needed to store a single character.
Bole1: (Noun)
Bole 2: (Noun)
A tree trunk.
A reddish brown clay used as a pigment
Bowl: (Noun)A dish.
Bow: (Noun)

A knot in which the loop remains visible.
A weapon used to fire arrows, consisting of a curved flexible piece of wood and a taut string fastened together.
Bow: (Verb)To bend one's head forward, or to bend forward from the waist, as a signal of respect, greeting, consent, submission, or acknowledgment.
Cannon: (Noun)A large, heavy piece of artillery formerly used in warfare.
A rapid firing gun mounted on an aircraft.
A stroke in which the cue ball strikes two balls successfully.
Canon: (Noun)A general rule, principle or standard guiding a cause.
In the Roman Catholic church, a list of saints. see dictionary for more sense.
Canvas: (Noun)A strong coarse unbleached cloth used to make sails, tents etc… and as a surface for oil painting
Canvass: (Noun)To solicit something from someone, especially policiticians canvassing for votes.
To propose an idea or plan for action.
Complement 1: (Verb)
Complement 2: (Noun)
A thing that contributes extra features to something else and thereby enhances and improves it.
Completing part; a quantity that makes something whole.
Compliment 1: (Noun)
Compliment 2: (Verb)
A statement of praise or admiration.
To praise or admire something or someone.
Days: (Noun)A number of days.
Daze: (Verb)A confused state and unclear thinking, often as a result of unexpected brilliance or shock
Direct 1: (Verb)To instruct someone, To address a letter to designated recipient.
Direct 2: (Adjective)Immediate; personal, in which no body or procedures intervenes; precise, and straightforward.
Doe: (Noun)A female hare, deer, rabbit etc.
Dough: (Noun)A mixture of flour and water, often with other ingredients such as yeast, oil, butter, salt, and sugar, that becomes bread or pastry when baked.

There are thousands more examples but for brevity sake we can't accomodate everything here.

However, we've provided below, a large list of homonyms that ranges from two, three and more group of words with identical spelling and pronunciations, and ofcourse these words means different things.

List of Homonyms

For efficient and effective studies, it is recommended you keep your dictionary close whilst studying these homonyms.

addsadsadze (also adz)
adeaidaide
airaree'erereerrheir
aisleI'llisle
awefulawfuloffal
ayeeyeI
baileebaileybailie
bailerbailorbaler
baizebaysbeys
baldballedbawled
basesbasisbasses
belbellbelle
bightbitebyte
boarboorbore
bolebollbowl
bornbornebourn
buybybye
callcaulcol
caratcaretcarrotkarat
caykeyquay
censercensorsensor
centscentsent
centsscentssense
ceresearseersere
chordcordcored
citesightsite
citedsightedsited
citessightssites
dewdodue
dodoedough
doesdoughsdoze
eweyewyou
ewesuseyews
firfurfurr
flewfluflue
forforefour
freesfreezefrieze
gildgilledguild
gnuknewnew
hauthohoe
heighhihiehigh
hoardhoardewhored
holeyholywholly
idleidolidyl
knotnaughtnot
knowsnoesnose
layslazeleis
lealeeli
lochslockslox
maulmaulmoll
marcmarkmarque
meatmeetmete
oarorore
pairparepear
palatepalletpallette
peakpeekpique
pincerpincherpinscher
poorporepour
praiseprayspreys
precedentspresidents
psisighxi
rainreignrein
raiseraysraze
rappedraptwrapped
readredereed
rheumyroomieroomy
rhoroerow
rightritewrightwrite
roadroderowed
seasseesseize
sewsosolsow
slewsloughslue
teateeti
teasteasetees
ternterneturn
theirtherethey're
totootwo
toadtoedtowed
vainvanevein
vialvileviol
wailwalewhale
warewearwhere
wayweighwhey
wealdwheeledwield
weatherwetherweather
we'rewerewhir
whinedwindwine
yoreyou'reyour
Further Readings:
Enchantedlearning.com | Homonyms/HomophonesOpens in new window
Funwithwords.com | HomonymsOpens in new window
Vocabulary.com | HomonymOpens in new window
Wikipedia | HomonymOpens in new window