Homonyms – What are Homophones and Homographs?
Spelling and Sound Distinguish These Similar Words
Homophones and homographs are homonyms. Homophones sound the same but are spelled differently. Homographs are spelled the same but sound different.
Words are homonyms when a group of two or more words are spelled the same and are pronounced the same but have different meanings. The word bank is an example of a homonym. Bank has several meanings including the following: an institution where people place their money, like the First Savings Bank; the edge of a body of water, like the river bank; and a row of items, such as a bank of slot machines.
Understanding Homonyms Generally
Within homonyms, there are homophones and homographs. To break the words down to understand their meanings, the part of the word "homo" that appears in both words means the same. Therefore, something about the words are the same.
Homophones are words that sound the same but that are spelled differently and have different meanings, such as buy and bye. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but sound different and have different meanings, like to row a boat and a row (or a fight) at a bar.
Homophones sound the same but may be spelled differently or spelled the same. To remember what the word homophone means, it's important to remember the "phone" part of the word. Words that are homophones sound the same, thus sound and phone. A person talks on the phone and can hear another person talking on the phone.
An example of homophones are the words bow and bough, both of which rhyme with cow. The following list shows the parts of speech, meanings, and pronunciations of examples of these homophones:
- bow as a verb; means to submit or yield, to leave a competition; it rhymes with cow
- bough is a noun; means a branch of a tree; it rhymes with cow
Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and are pronounced differently or the same. To remember what the word homograph means, the "graph" part of the word refers to sight; that is, the words look the same.
An example of a homograph is the word bow, which can rhyme with cow or toe. The following list shows the parts of speech, meanings, and pronunciations:
- bow as a noun; means a weapon used with arrows; it rhymes with toe
- bow as a verb; means to bend at the waist; it rhymes with cow
- bow as a noun; means the forward part of a ship; it rhymes with cow
- bow as a noun; means a decorative ribbon tied to form loops; rhymes with toe
Using the Correct Homonym
These words can be confusing so looking the words up in a dictionary is a good way to double check the correct word is used. Making a cheat sheet is another option with the pronunciations, spellings, and meanings clearly listed. Another option for writing clearly and correctly is for a writer to ask someone to proofread their writing when possible.
Copyright Otis Anderson.