Examples of Homonyms

By , M.A. English
Examples of Homonyms
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    Examples of Homonyms
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Homonyms are words that are spelled the same and sound the same but have different meanings. The word homonym comes from the prefix homo- which means "the same," and the suffix -nym, which means "name." Therefore, a homonym is a word that has at least two different meanings, even though all uses look and sound exactly alike.

Homonym Examples

A simple example of a homonym is the word pen. This can mean both "a holding area for animals" and "a writing instrument." Another example is book, which can mean "something to read" or "the act of making a reservation." In both cases, the sound and spelling are the same; only the definition changes. Discover a collection of 30 more homonym examples.

Note that some homonyms have more than two meanings (for example, "tender" can also mean sensitive, easily chewed, or even refer to chicken strips), but to keep things simple, the homonyms examples list includes only two for each word.

Homonym Meaning 1 Meaning 2
address to speak to location
air oxygen a lilting tune or voice
arm body part division of a company
band a musical group a ring
bark a tree's out layer the sound a dog makes
bat an implement used to hit a ball a nocturnal flying mammal
bright very smart or intelligent filled with light
circular taking the form of a circle a store advertisement
current up to date flow of water
die to cease living a cube marked with numbers one through six
express a fast version of something to show your thoughts by using words
fair equitable beautiful
jag a sharp, jutted object a crying spree
kind a type of something caring
lie to recline to tell a falsehood
match to pair like items a stick for making a flame
mean average not nice
pole a piece of metal that holds a flag inside front position on the starting line of a race
pound unit of weight to beat
quarry a site for mining stone to extract or obtain slowly
ream a pile of paper to juice a citrus fruit
ring a band on a finger something circular in shape
right correct direction opposite of left
rock a genre of music a stone
rose to have gotten up a flower
spring a season coiled metal
stalk a part of a plant to follow or harass someone
tender gentle offer of money
tire to grow fatigued a part of a wheel
well in good health a source for water in the ground

Homophones, Homographs, Homonyms: What's the Difference?

Thanks to their identical prefixes, the words homophone, homograph and homonym are often confused. However, in this case, it's the suffix that makes all the difference.

Homophones

The all-important suffix of the word homophone is -phone, which means "sound." Homophones are words that sound the same when spoken, but have different meanings and are spelled differently. For example, consider the words "heal" and "heel." Heal refers to recovering from an illness, while heel refers to the bottom back portion of someone's foot. Other homophone examples include:

  • mat/matte
  • two/too

Homographs

Homographs are words that are spelled the same, as indicated by the suffix -graph, which means "writing." Homographs have the same spelling but different meanings and different pronunciations. For example, consider the word tear. Tear (tir) refers to a drop of water falling from someone's eye. Tear (tār) means to rip something. Either way, the spelling is the same, but not the meaning or the sound. Other examples of homographs include:

  • bow - to bend at the waist or a piece of archery equipment
  • entrance - to hold one's attention or a doorway

Homonyms

Homonyms have characteristics of both homophones and homographs. As mentioned, they are words that are spelled alike (like homographs) and sound the same (akin homophones). Homonyms are a special case, and they are best thought of as the center portion of a Venn diagram that shows the overlap between homophones in one half and homographs in the other. A few more examples of homonyms include:

  • bear - an animal or to withstand something
  • can - a metal container or the ability to do something

Infographic: Homonyms vs. Antonyms and Synonyms

It's also important to know how homonyms relate to other aspects of the English language. For example, homonyms do not share the same meaning, so they are not synonyms for one another. However, they are also not antonyms. They do not have opposite meanings, but rather have different meanings that are unrelated. The infographic below illustrates how homophones and homonyms relate to antonyms and synonyms.

antonyms synonyms homonyms homophones infographic

Antonyms synonyms homonyms

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Making Sense of Homonyms With Context Clues

While homophones are likely to get you in trouble when it comes to spelling — as anyone who's ever mixed up "accept" and "except" can attest — homonyms are more of an issue when you're quickly skimming something.

For example, if you aren't paying attention to context clues, reading a story about a king who wants air can be confusing for a moment. Is he in danger of suffocating, or is he asking a minstrel to sing a song? Fortunately, context clues clear up any confusion for most readers within moments, and comprehension is not an issue.

Homonyms can be more confusing for young readers or people learning English as a second language, usually because they aren't yet familiar with alternate definitions of a word, but our list of common homonyms will help you learn the differences.

Overcome the Trouble With Homonyms

The bottom line about homonyms? If you ever come across a word that just doesn't seem to make sense in its context, check for alternate definitions. You just may have a homonym on your hands. You'll feel much more confident in your language arts skills when you learn the secondary meaning of one of these tricky quirks of the English language. Next, turn your attention to another challenging aspect of the language by getting familiar with some of the most often mispronounced English words.