Put quite simply, a homograph is a group (usually a pair) of words that are spelled the same way, but have different meanings. They may or may not be pronounced the same way, although the difference in pronunciation is often just a shift in the accented syllable.
There is a whole class of homographs that end in -ate, usually with one being a verb and the other being a noun or an adjective related to it. For example:
- "Advocate" can be pronounced with a long "a" sound and mean “to speak or write in support of”
- "Advocate" can also be pronounced with a short "a" sound and refer to a person who supports or pleads the cause of another.
Now that you know what they are, here are 40 examples of homographs:
- accent - stress or emphasis/a manner of speaking or pronunciation influenced by the region in which one lives or grew up
- agape - wide open/a Greek word meaning “love”
- attribute - a characteristic or quality/to think of as belonging to or originating in some person, place or thing
- axes - the plural of ax or axe/the plural of axis
- bass - a deep voice or tone/a kind of fish
- bat - a piece of sporting equipment used in baseball/a winged animal associated with vampires
- bow - to bend at the waist/the front of a boat/a pair of tied loops
- buffet - to hit, punch or slap/a self-serve food bar
- bustier - an undergarment/more busty
- compact - small/to make small/a small case for holding makeup
- compound - to mix or combine/an enclosed area with a building or group of buildings inside
- content - happy or satisfied/all that is contained inside something
- contract - an agreement/to get, acquire or incur
- coordinates - brings into proper place or order/a set of numbers used to calculate position
- desert - a hot, arid region/to leave
- digest - a condensed version of some information/to change food in the stomach into a form that can be absorbed by the body
- discount - a reduction in price/to underestimate the significance of or give no credence to
- does - female deer (plural)/present, third person singular form of the verb “do”
- down - in a lower position/soft, furry feathers
- entrance - the place of entry/to bewitch, delight or enrapture
- evening - late afternoon/making more even
- fine - very good/sharp or keen/delicate or subtle/a sum of money paid to settle a matter
- frequent - occurring regularly/to visit a place with regularity
- incense - a substance that produces a pleasant odor when burned/to infuriate or make very angry
- lead - to go first with followers behind/a type of metal
- minute - 60 seconds or 1/60th of an hour/extremely small
- moped - acted sad or gloomy/a bicycle with a motor
- object - a thing you can see or touch/a goal/a noun that receives the action of a verb/to be opposed to
- proceeds - advances or continues on/the money or profit gained from some sale or venture
- produce - to create or make/fresh fruits and vegetables
- project - a plan or proposal/to throw or hurl forward/to cause a shadow or image to fall upon a surface
- putting - the present participle of put/the present participle of putt
- number - a numeral/to count/more numb
- refuse - waste or garbage/to reject or decline to accept
- row - a fight/to propel a boat forward using oars/a line
- second - 1/60th of a minute/after the first
- subject - under some authority or control/to bring under authority or control/to make liable or vulnerable/a topic/the noun in a sentence about which something is said in the predicate
- tear - to rip/a drop of water from the eye
- wind - to turn/moving air
- wound - turned/an injury
This is just a small sample of all the homographs that exist. There are hundreds more just in English, not to mention the homographs that exist in other languages and the ones that exist between languages.
Homographs, Homophones and Homonyms
It’s easy to confuse homographs with homophones and homonyms, but if you think about each word, they make more sense.
Homo-, as you know, means “same.” But the end of each word tells us what is the same.
- Homograph - “Graph” has to do with writing or drawing. When you think about a graph, you envision a picture. If you read graphic novels, you know they have pictures. Someone drew them. So “homograph” means “same picture” or “same writing.” Homographs are written (spelled) the same.
- Homophone - “Phone” has to do with sound. When you talk on the telephone, you hear the other person’s voice. When people in the 1800s used a gramophone, they were listening to music. And phonology is the study of a language’s sounds. So “homophone” means “same sound.” Homophones are pronounced the same.
- Homonym - “Nym” means “name.” Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder have the same first name, but they clearly are different people. It’s the same with homonyms. They’re spelled the same (homographs) and pronounced the same (homophones), but they have different meanings. “Bow,” for example, means both “to bend at the waist” and “the front of a boat.”