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Introduction to Homonyms (with examples)

Updated on September 6, 2014


The English language can be confusing, even to those who grew up with it as their native tongue. One of the things that trips writers up is Homonyms.

Homonym - from the Greek homonumos meaning
“having the same name.”

A homonym is a group of words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but different meanings.


Homonyms can be broken into three categories.

Homographs: Words spelled alike but different in meaning. Example: combine (to merge or unite) and combine (an agricultural threshing machine)

Homophones: Words pronounced the same but are different in spelling and meaning. Example: pair (couple) and pear (fruit)

Heteronyms: Words that are spelled the same but that differ in pronunciation and meaning. Example: basil (an aromatic herb, pronounced bay-sil) and Basil (a man’s name, pronounced bah-zil)

Learn More ...

I hope this has been of use to you. Homonyms can really mess with a writer. To help clarify the difference between homophones, homographs, and heteronyms, you can read about them by following the links below.

  • Heteronyms (Words spelled the same but differ in pronunciation and meaning.)
  • Homographs (Words spelled alike but different in meaning.)
  • Homophones (Words pronounced the same but are different in spelling and meaning.)

© 2011 Rosa Marchisella


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    • I Am Rosa profile imageAUTHOR

      Rosa Marchisella 

      9 years ago from Canada

      LOL @ Flora

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      9 years ago

      Heteronyms are the types of Homonyms that give me a problem-when I'm speaking more than when I'm writing.

      This reminds me of a joke where a person is asked how to promounce a bunch of names spelled out one by one-all Scottish and starting with M-A-C. After MacIntosh, MacDonald, MacVicar, etc. the last word spelled out is M-A-C-H-I-N-E. Invariably the person says Mac-Hine instead of Muh-sheen

    • I Am Rosa profile imageAUTHOR

      Rosa Marchisella 

      9 years ago from Canada

      LOL - me too. I think we spent ONE whole class on this subject in high school, yet it seems to trip people up very often - especially the heteronyms in part 4 where the words sound similar. I figured I wasn't the only person who needed a brush-up on this topic :-D

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I feel like attending English class again. As a non-native English speaker/writer I'm always trying hard to brush up my language skills. And this was entirely new to me.


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