1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Homonym vs. Homograph vs. Homophone vs. Heteronym

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Gannon, Aug 13, 2008.

    Today I found myself lost in terminology and researched the issue. My findings (with thanks to dictionary.com and wikipedia) are below, duly shared with the community.

    In summary:

    Homonym, homophone, homograph and heteronym are all terms for words which are identical to other words in spelling or pronunciation. In certain cases, both spelling and pronounciation may be the same, differing only in meaning.

    - Words that are spelt the same, no matter the pronounciation - heteronym or homograph

    - Words that are pronounced the same, no matter the spelling - homophones (incorporates homonyms)

    - Words that are pronounced the same, no matter the spelling, but have different meanings - homonym (more specific than homophones)

    "Homophones are words that sound alike, whether or not they are spelled differently. The words pear “fruit,” pare “cut off,” and pair “two of a kind” are homophones that are different in spelling; bear “carry; support” and bear “animal” are homophones that are spelled alike."​

    "Homographs are words that are spelled identically but may or may not share a pronunciation. Spruce “tree” and spruce “neat” are homographs, but so are row "with oars" and row “fight” as well as sewer “conduit for waste” and sewer “person who sews.” "​

    Heteronym appears to be a valid variant for homograph.

    "Homonyms are one of a group of words that share the same pronunciation but have different meanings, and are usually spelt differently. For example "stalk" (which can mean either part of a plant or to follow someone around)." ​

    "Some sources also consider the following trio of words to be homonyms, but others designate them as "only" homophones: to, too and two (actually, to, to, too, too and two, being "for the purpose of" as in "to make it easier", the opposite of "from", also, excessively, and "2", respectively)." ​

    "Some sources state that homonym meanings must be unrelated in origin (rather than just different). Thus right (correct) and right (opposed to left) would be polysemous (see below) and not be homonyms."​

    "Homonym is also used as a synonym of homograph. Thus, it has taken on a broader scope than either of the other two terms and is often the term of choice in a nontechnical context."

    n.b. minimal pairs - words that vary only by one consant sound "pet" vs. "met"

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