Meanings, and Difference Between Homophones, Homographs, and Homonyms

Homophones, Homographs, and Homonyms – these words don’t only sound tricky, but also have tricky meanings or spellings as well.

Homophones (Words that Sound the Same)

Etymology: The term “homophone” is derived from the Greek words “homos” (same) and “phone” (voice, speech).

Homophones are words that sound the same or almost the same but have different meanings and spellings. There are two variations of homophones –

  • Words that are spelled the same and have the same pronunciation.

Example: Live as in “to remain alive”, and Live as in “make one’s home in a specific place”.

  • Words that don’t have the exact same spelling but have the almost same pronunciation.  

Example: Knew as in the past tense of being aware of information, inquiry, etc. And New as in something or someone that has been introduced/made/discovered for the first time.

Homographs (Words that are Spelled the Same)

Etymology: The term “homograph” comes from the Greek words “homos” (same) and “grapho” (write).

Homograph words are spelled the same but are different in terms of spelling, pronunciation, or derivation.

Example: Desert as in “to leave a place, making it empty”, and desert as in “a dry, sandy area of land”.

Homonyms (Words that can have the same pronunciation and spelling)

Etymology: The term “homonym” originated from the Greek words “homos” (same) and “onoma” (name).

Homonym words have the same pronunciation but are different in terms of spelling or meaning. Or, they can have the same spelling but differ in pronunciations or meanings.

Example: Tire as in “a rubber-covered car wheel”, and tire as in “the feel of exhaustion or boredom”.

How to easily differentiate between Homophones, Homographs, and Homonyms

You can easily which is which by remembering the simple rule.

Homophones are pronounced the same; Homographs are spelled the same; and homonyms can be both with different meanings.

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