Homonyms – how to understand them

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Homonyms – definition

homonyms Homonyms are words which are spelled the same, but which have different meanings.


bear – an animal
bear – to carry

bore – to drill a hole
bore – a tedious person

down – at a lower part
down – bird’s feathers

draft – preliminary sketch
draft – a money order


redbtn The apparent similarities in these words sometimes causes confusion — particularly to non-native speakers.

redbtn Such words may or may not have the same etymological origins.

redbtn NB! Homonyms are a rich source of puns in English.

redbtn Strictly speaking, homonyms may be broken down into two different categories – homophones and homographs.

redbtn Homophones are words which are pronounced in the same way, but which have different spellings:

threw flung
through from end to end
bow incline from the waist
bough large tree-branch

redbtn Homographs are words which have the same spelling, but which are pronounced differently:

lead a heavy metal
lead to walk in front
wind air movement
wind to coil

redbtn One reason for these similarities is that spelling is only a rough approximation to pronunciation.

Self-assessment quiz follows …

© Roy Johnson 2003

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