Sometimes it feels like the creators of the English language just got lazy. Why come up with a new word when you could just dust off an old one and give it a new pronunciation? Enter homographs. A homograph is when two or more words are spelled the same but are not necessarily pronounced the same. They also hold different definitions and origins.
Bow, for instance, can refer to the archery instrument but also to bending at the waist as a sign of respect. Or take the verb tear. A person can be tearing an object, or tearing up — ripping versus crying.
With these homograph examples you’re also looking at the difference between homonyms and heteronyms. Each version has different definitions, but you want to pay attention to the pronunciation.
Homonyms are spelled the same and carry the same pronunciation. Think of pen — a writing instrument, or an enclosed area to hold animals. Heteronyms (hetero = different) may be spelled the same, but phonetically sound different.
In short, all homographs hold different meanings and the same spelling, but depending on their pronunciation, they’re either heteronyms (different pronunciation) or homonyms (same pronunciation).
Feeling that linguistic trauma yet? Enjoy a round up of 10 homographic tongue-twisters. See if any trip you up!
The waiter wasn’t close enough to the door to close it.
Nick cut himself on a rusty fence. Because of his failure to clean his wound, it wound up infected.
The woman on the street craned her neck to spot a crane perched atop a construction crane.
With the grace of a dove, John dove at his mark and landed first place in the diving competition.
Susan swung her bat in a panic, frightened by the sudden flight of a bat from above.
The hole was so minute that it took the seamstress a minute to locate it.
The dog let out three short barks as it scratched its paws against the tree’s bark, attempting to climb up after the squirrel.
Sara’s gaming console was beyond repair, and there was nothing Fatima could do to console her.
Sean rose to accept the rose from Emily, only to realize he was not her choice of bachelor after all.
In spite of the falling rubble, Aladdin couldn’t bare to desert Abu in the desert.