10 Homographs That Can Trip You Up

Tuesday, November 262 min read

Sometimes it feels like the creators of the English language just got lazy. Why come up with a new word when you can 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 can 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 tear an object, or tear up — ripping versus crying.

To make it even trickier, depending on their pronunciation, homographs are either heteronyms (different pronunciation) or homonyms (same pronunciation).

Heteronyms (hetero = different) may be spelled the same, but phonetically, they sound different. Homonyms (homo = same) are spelled the same and carry the same pronunciation. Think of "pen" — a writing instrument, or an enclosed area to hold animals.

Feeling that linguistic confusion yet? Enjoy a roundup of 10 homographic tongue-twisters. See if any trip you up!

Close (heteronym)

The waiter wasn’t close enough to the door to close it.

Wound (heteronym)  

Nick cut himself on a rusty fence. He didn't clean his wound, so it wound up infected.

Crane (homonym)

The woman had to crane her neck to spot a crane perched atop a construction crane.

Dove (heteronym)

With the grace of a dove, John dove at his mark and landed first place in the diving competition.

Bat (homonym)

Susan swung her bat in a panic, frightened by the sudden flight of a bat from above.

Minute (heteronym)

The hole was so minute that it took the seamstress a minute to locate it.

Bark (homonym)

The dog let out a quick bark as it scratched the tree bark, attempting to climb after the squirrel.

Console (heteronym)

Sara’s gaming console was beyond repair, and there was nothing Fatima could do to console her.

Rose (homonym)

Sean rose to accept the rose from Emily, only to realize he was not her choice of bachelor after all.  

Desert (heteronym)

In spite of the falling rubble, Aladdin couldn’t desert Abu in the desert.

Photo credit: Tadeusz Lakota/ Unsplash

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