Homographs are pairs or groups of words that are spelled the same way. However, that's where the similarities end! Keep reading to learn more about homographs as well as several homograph examples that you encounter in your daily life.
Examples of Homographs: Same Spelling, Different Meaning
Homograph, which is Greek for "same writing," indicates that words look the same. When the meaning of a word depends on how you pronounce it, that's a homograph (also known as a multiple-meaning word). Homographs have the following qualities:
Although the difference in pronunciation is often just a shift in the accented syllable, it means a lot for the homograph's definition. For example, when you pronounce the word advocate with a short /a/ sound, it's a noun that means "a person who speaks up for another person." But when you pronounce the word with a long /a/ sound, it's a verb that means "to support or plead the case of another person."
Common Homograph Pairs
Now that you know how to find homographs, you'll see them everywhere! Check out these homograph examples that have two different meanings.
1. (n.) a Greek word meaning “sacrificial love”
2. (adj.) wide open
1. He felt true agape for his family.
2. My mouth was agape with surprise.
1. (v.) to think of as belonging to or originating in some person, place or thing
2. (n.) a characteristic or quality
1. He attributes his love for spicy food to his grandmother's cooking.
2. Paul's sense of humor was his best attribute.
1. (n.) the plural of axis
2. (n.) the plural of ax or axe
1. This is the point where the axes meet.
2. The lumberjack stored his axes in the shed.
1. (v.) to hit, punch or slap
2. (n.) a French word for a self-serve food bar
1. The wind buffeted the old shack.
2. You can have several helpings at the buffet.
1. (n.) a French word for an undergarment
2. (adj.) more busty
1. She bought a lacy bustier.
2. The painting made her look bustier than she really was.
1. (adj.) happy or satisfied
2. (n.) all that is contained inside something
1. Pedro was content with his life.
2. This program includes inappropriate content.
1. (n.) a written agreement
2. (v.) to get, acquire or incur
1. We signed the final contract to buy our house.
2. Maya contracted the flu from a child in her class.
1. (v.) to organize or bring into order
2. (n.) a set of numbers used to calculate a position
1. The wedding planner coordinates the entire day.
2. You can graph the location's coordinates along the longitude and latitude lines.
1. Some plants have adapted to live in the dry desert.
2. The soldier was accused of deserting his post.
1. (n.) a condensed version of some information
2. (v.) to change food in the stomach into a form that can be absorbed by the body
1. All the emails from the day are included in one single digest.
2. Dairy can be hard for some people to digest.
1. (n.) a reduction in price
2. (v.) to underestimate the significance of or give no credence to
1. The clothing store is offering an employee discount.
2. Don't discount my skills because I'm young.
1. (n.) more than one female deer
2. (v.) present, third-person singular form of the verb “do”
1. Look at the does and their fawns in the meadow.
2. Does anyone know where my wallet is?
1. (n.) the place of entry
2. (v.) to bewitch or delight
1. Meet me at the entrance of the restaurant.
2. Scarlett entrances everyone she meets.
1. (n.) late afternoon
2. (v.) making more even
1. Let’s meet later this evening at dinner.
2. We’re evening out the skill levels on each team.
1. (adj.) occurring regularly
2. (v.) to visit a place often
1. I make frequent visits to my hometown.
2. Do you frequent the art museum?
1. (n.) a substance that produces a pleasant odor when burned
2. (v.) to infuriate or make very angry
1. The room smelled of cinnamon and incense.
2. It incenses me when you call me names.
1. (n.) 60 seconds
2. (adj.) very small
1. It will only take one minute to get there.
2. The soil samples include minute traces of radiation.
1. (v.) acted sad or gloomy in the past tense
2. (n.) a motorized bicycle or scooter
1. Martin moped all afternoon when he didn’t get the job.
2. A moped went speeding by as we crossed the street.
1. (v.) advances or continues on
2. (n.) money or profit gained
1. The population proceeds to grow higher and higher.
2. We donated the proceeds from the fundraiser to charity.
1. (v.) to create or make
2. (n.) fresh fruits or vegetables
1. The band has produced some great music over the years.
2. We can buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
1. (v.) placing something in a location (put)
2. (v.) gently hitting a golf ball into the hole (putt)
1. I’m putting my laundry away.
2. The golfer’s putting has gotten much better.
1. (v.) to reject or decline
2. (n.) garbage or trash
1. She broke his heart when she refused his proposal.
2. Please take the refuse out to the curb for the garbage truck.
1. (n.) 1/60 of a minute
2. (adj.) the position after first
1. We don’t have a second to spare.
2. Isaac was proud to come in second place.
1. (v.) to rip
2. (n.) a drop of water from the eye
1. Tear the paper out of your notebook and turn it in.
2. Tears ran down her cheeks as she said goodbye.
1. (v.) to turn in a circle
2. (n.) moving air in the atmosphere
1. Wind the clock so it shows the correct time.
2. The wind is so strong that it knocked down a tree.
1. (v.) past tense form of wind
2. (n.) an injury
1. The girl wound a curl around her finger,
2. The wound on my ankle is starting to heal.
Several of these homograph words are spelled the same in English but have different etymologies. For example, the word buffet that ends in a silent "t" and means "a self-serving restaurant" comes from the French bufet, which means "stool." However, when buffet has an audible "t" and means "to hit or strike" comes from the French verb bufeter with the same meaning.
Sometimes homographs have more than two meanings. Some of these homographs have the same pronunciation as each other, but at least one in each group is pronounced differently.
1. (n.) a kind of fish
2. (n.) a large string instrument or type of guitar
3. (adj.) a deep voice or tone
1. We caught a large bass this morning.
2. The bass player is very talented.
3. Henry's low bass voice startled me.
1. (v.) to bend at the waist
2. (n.) a pair of tied loops
3. (n.) a piece of archery equipment
4. (n.) the front of a boat
1. I bowed to the king.
2. Tie your shoelaces into a bow.
3. The archer aligned his arrow on the bow.
4. Go stand at the bow if you're feeling seasick.
1. (adj.) small
2. (v.) to make small or firm
3. (n.) a small case for holding makeup
1. This parking space is for compact cars only.
2. You need to compact the soil before building a road.
3. There's a small mirror in my compact.
1. (n.) a mixture made of two or more parts
2. (n.) an enclosed area with a building or group of buildings inside
3. (v.) to add to or to make worse
1. The pharmacist creates compounds in the lab.
2. Our family lives in a big compound outside the city.
3. Arguing will only compound the problem.
1. (adv.) in a lower position
2. (n.) soft, furry feathers
3. (n.) one of four plays in American football possession
1. Get down on the ground.
2. This down comforter is so warm.
3. The team was already on its fourth down.
1. (adj.) very good
2. (adj.) delicate or subtle
3. (n.) a sum of money to pay
1. The decorations look fine.
2. Her hair was very thin and fine.
3. You need to pay your parking fine at the courthouse.
1. (v.) to go first with followers behind
2. (n.) a type of metal
3. (n.) a leash for a dog
1. Who will lead the class while I’m gone?
2. Lead can be very dangerous in drinking water.
3. Attach the lead to the dog’s collar.
1. (n.) a thing that you can see or touch
2. (n.) part of a sentence that receives the action from the subject
3. (v.) to be opposed to
1. Please don’t throw objects from the bridge.
2. The object of the sentence comes after the verb.
3. I object to your argument that my client is guilty.
1. (n.) a plan or proposal
2. (v.) to throw or hurl forward
3. (v.) to use light to form a shadow or image onto a surface
1. The project needs to be finished by the end of the week.
2. The football projected over the players’ heads and into the end zone.
3. Project the slides onto the wall so we can all see them.
1. (n.) a numeral
2. (v.) to count in order
3. (adj.) more numb
1. The toddler knows his numbers from 1-10.
2. Number these files in order that they were received.
3. After the dentist’s second injection, the patient’s mouth felt much number.
1. (n.) a horizontal line in a grid or array
2. (v.) to propel a boat forward with oars
3. (n.) a fight or argument
1. Delete the entire bottom row on your spreadsheet.
2. The man rowed the boat across the lake.
3. My boyfriend and I are in another row.
1. (adj.) under authority or control
2. (v.) to expose someone to undesirable conditions
3. (n.) a topic learned in school
4. (n.) the noun that performs the action in a sentence
1. The peasants are subject to the king’s commands.
2. Don’t subject the children to problems in your marriage.
3. My favorite subject is math.
4. The subject usually comes before the predicate in a sentence.
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. Since homo means "same," each term describes a different word relationship.
homograph ("same writing") - words that have the same spelling, but different pronunciations and different meanings (such as wind and wind)
homophone ("same sound") - words that have the same pronunciation, but different meanings and different spellings (such as eight and ate)
homonyms ("same name") - words that have the same spelling and the same pronunciation, but different meanings (such as bat and bat)
The most common confusion comes between homonyms and homographs. Both types of words are spelled the same, but homographs have different pronunciations.
The Wide World of Words
Because of its many origins and source languages, English can be a confusing language. Homographs add to the confusion because they look like they're the same words, but are pronounced and defined differently. Learn how to use context clues to determine which version of the word you're reading. Once you have a grasp on different word relationships, you can better enjoy wordplay and different types of puns!