A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word but has a different meaning and/or spelling. “Flower” and “flour” are homophones because they are pronounced the same but you certainly can't bake a cake using daffodils. Continue reading...
This word set can be confusing, even for word geeks. Let's start with the basics. A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word but has a different sound and a different meaning:
lead (to go in front of)/lead (a metal)
wind (to follow a course that is not straight)/wind (a gust of air)
bass (low, deep sound)/bass (a type of fish)
A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning:
Not so bad, right? The ending –graph means drawn or written, so a homograph has the same spelling. The –phone ending means sound or voice, so a homophone has the same pronunciation. But here's where it gets tricky. Depending on whom you talk to, homonym means either:
A word that is spelled like another but has a different sound and meaning (homograph); a word that sounds like another but has a different spelling and meaning (homophone)
A word that is spelled and pronounced like another but has a different meaning (homograph and homophone)
So does a homonym have to be both a homograph and a homophone, or can it be just one or the other? As with most things in life, it depends on whom you ask.
In the strictest sense, a homonym must be both a homograph and a homophone. So say many dictionaries. However, other dictionaries allow that a homonym can be a homograph or a homophone.
With so many notable resources pointing to the contrary, are we losing this strict meaning? What then will we call a word that is spelled and pronounced the same as another but has a different meaning? If homonym retains all these meanings, how will readers know what is actually meant?
The careful writer would do well to foll
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