Thursday, June 29, 2006

More of the Same


Q. Can you say something about words which sound alike but have different spellings, and words which are spelled alike but have different meanings?

A. There are actually three variations here, word sets with certain similarities as well as differences. Focusing on the similarities, we have homographs, homonyms, and homophones.

(1) A homograph [from Greek homo-, same, and –graph, something written] is a word spelled the same as another, but having a different meaning, derivation, or pronunciation.
  • lead (led/leed)
He used a lead pencil to lead the orchestra.
  • bow (boe/baugh)
She tied a bow to the bow of the ship.
  • entrance (ENtrens/enTRANCE)
I was entranced by the ornate entrance.

When we focus on the differences, it is called a heterograph.


(2) A homonym [from Greek homo-, same, and –nym, name] is a word spelled and sounding the same as another, but having a different meaning and origin.
  • pool
    The pool table was located near the swimming pool.
    The neighbors pooled their money for the football pool.
  • bank
    They slid down the bank into the river.
    Don’t forget to put your check in the bank.
    She approached a bank of elevators.
    We flew through a cloud bank.
    Don’t forget to bank the campfire before you go to sleep.
    If you bank the 8-ball, it will go into that far pocket.

When we focus on the differences, it is called a heteronym.


(3) A homophone [from Greek homo-, same, and –phoné, sound] is a word sounding the same as another, but having a different meaning or derivation or spelling.
  • all/awl
    All I know about an awl is that it is a pointed tool.
  • fair/fare
    Do you have enough bus fare to get to the fair?
  • to/two/too
    The two of us want to go with you, too.
  • there/they’re/their
    They’re trying to tell you that their house is over there.

When we focus on the differences, it is called a heterophone.


Homonym is often considered a broader term which encompasses both homographs and homophones.

Summary:
homographs look the same,
homophones sound the same, and
homonyms look and sound the same.


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