WRITING TIPS, TOOLS, AND TIDBITS!: HOMONYMS, HOMOPHONES, and HOMOGRAPHS

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author and WU! admin Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

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HOMONYMS, HOMOPHONES, and HOMOGRAPHS

People often mix up the terms homonyms, homophones, and homographs. Although these terms are similar and have an overlap, they have specific meanings. This should help to keep them straight.

Basically, homonyms sound the same and have the same spelling. Homophones sound the same regardless of spelling. Homographs have the same spelling regardless of how they are pronounced. And all of these words—homonyms, homophones, and homographs—have different meanings regardless of spelling or pronunciation.

Basically, if they sound the same, they are homophones. If they are spelled the same, they are homographs. If they are both spelled the same and sound the same, they are homonyms. Please note that there is an overlap of these word groups. And please also note that some dictionaries and sources use the word homonyms to mean all of these.

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Homonyms are words that both sound the same and also have the same spelling, but mean different things. Examples: bark and bark, bat and bat, lie and lie, pen and pen, ring and ring, tire and tire. Since homonyms sound the same, they are also homophones, and since they are spelled the same, they are also homographs.

Examples:

  • ball (a round toy for play or sports) / ball (a formal party)
  • bark (a tree’s outer layer) / bark (the sound a dog makes)
  • lie (to recline) / lie (to tell a falsehood)
  • right (correct) / right (opposite of left)
  • rose (a flower) / rose (past tense of rise)
  • tire (to grow fatigued) / tire (part of a wheel)

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Homophones are words that sound the same but may or may not have the same spelling, and they mean different things. Examples: blew and blue, do and due, eight and ate, know and no, plain and plane, right and write, threw and through. Homophones are pronounced the same no matter how they are spelled.

Examples:

  • ate, eight
  • bear, bare
  • break, brake
  • cell, sell
  • dear, deer
  • flower, flour
  • for, four
  • grate, great
  • hear, here
  • mail, male
  • plain, plane
  • pray, prey
  • right, write
  • see, sea
  • site, sight, cite
  • tale, tail
  • there, their, they’re
  • week, weak

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Homographs are words that are spelled the same but may or may not have the same pronunciation, and they mean different things. Examples: bass and bass, bow and bow, dove and dove, tear and tear, read and read, lead and lead. Homographs are spelled the same no matter how they are pronounced.

Examples:

  • bow (decorative ribbon) / bow (part of a ship)
  • content (what is contained inside) / content (satisfied)
  • dove (past tense of dive) / dove (a bird)
  • lead (to be a leader) / lead ( a metal)
  • minute (60 seconds) / minute (tiny)
  • tear (salty fluid from your eye) / tear (to rip)

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Basically, homophones sound the same, homographs are spelled the same, and homonyms do both (sound the same and spelled the same). And even though the words sound and/or are spelled the same, they have different meanings.

Helpful Hint: All three words start with “homo” which means “same.” The endings help define what they mean.

—phone means “sound,” so homophones have the same sound, regardless of spelling.

—graph means “written,” so homographs are written or spelled the same, regardless of pronunciation.

—onym means “name,” so homonyms sound the same and are spelled the same.

Note: Some words fall into more than one category. Also, in some dictionaries, homonyms can be used to refer to all such words in general.

Bark and bark are in all three categories: homonyms (sound the same and spelled the same), homophones (sound the same regardless of spelling), and homographs (spelled the same regardless of pronunciation).

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Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

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I hope you find this helpful. These tips and much more are also on my website and blog, and also in my Grammar Tips book. Thank you!

Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Grammar Tips Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N2BQMCG/