Homonyms versus Homophones versus Homographs

What's the difference between homonyms and homophones? I remember my younger sister asked me that before.^^However, in this post,I will also add homographs. Actually, there is some confusion about the meanings of these three. This post is based on linguistics.

are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. For instance, rose (which refers to a kind of flower) and rose (which is the past form of rise) are spelled and pronounced the same way.

brief (short span of time) and brief (men's underwear)
bright (opposite of dark) and bright (smart)
stalk (to harass by following) and stalk (part of a plant)

Homophones on the other hand are words which have the same pronunciation regardless of their spelling. If the spelling of the homophones are also the same, they are at the same time homonyms and homographs. For example, miss (failure to hit something) and miss (the state of loneliness when a loved one is away) are homonyms (because of the same spelling and pronunciation)and at the same time, homophones(same sound) and homographs (same spelling). However, to, two and too are all pronounced the same way but have different spellings. They are NOT homonyms, but they are homophones. Homophones which have different spellings are heterographs.

book (something we read) and book (to reserve) are homophones, homonyms and homographs
principle and principal are homophones
they're, there and their are homophones

Homographs are words which have the same spelling no matter how they are pronounced. If homographs are pronounced the same, they are also homophones. The first given example 'rose'(noun) and 'rose'(verb) are homographs, homonyms and at the same time homophones. If the homographs are pronounced differently, they are called heteronyms. An example of this is bow(weapon used with arrows) and bow (to bend). They have the same spelling, but they differ when it comes to pronunciation.

bass (type of fish) and bass (low voice) are homographs, homonyms and homophones
minute (tiny) and minute (measure of time) are homographs
wound (past form of wind) and wound (injury) are homographs, homonyms and homophones

Those are the similarities and differences among homonyms, homophones and homographs.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, really helpful

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot! My little sister and I didn't know the difference either until we came here! Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thanks, this was quite informative. However, there are errors in the last examples. For bass and wound, they are identified as homonyms, but that should read heteronyms.

I had not heard of homographs or heteronyms/heterographs prior to this article, so thanks especially for that.

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