January 18, 2010 at 9:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A list by John Higgins of English words which have two pronunciations but one spelling

Double-stress words
Stress homographs
Words ending in -ate
Words ending in -ment
Voicing distinctions
-ed adjectives
“True” homographs
A tonemic homograph
Homographs from abbreviations
Homographic place names
Alphabetical list of all homographs
Phonetic transcription key

Homographs are those words which have one spelling but two pronunciations and two distinct meanings or usages. A classic case would be a word like wound, which as a noun or present tense verb means injury or injure and with a different pronunciation is the past tense of the verb wind, itself a homograph. The term is contrasted with homophones, words with two spellings and two meanings but only one pronunciation such as fair/fare, and with homonyms, words with one spelling, one pronunciation, but two unrelated meanings, such as bear or just or left. The fact that the meanings are unrelated is what distinguishes homonyms from polysemes, words with varied meanings or usages, such as course or table or paper, where all the meanings can be traced back to the same root. English has an enormous number of polysemes, but only a relatively small set of true homonyms.

Not everybody uses this set of definitions, though they would be accepted by the majority of trained linguistic scholars. In wider usage (reflected in many dictionaries) the term homograph includes what I have here called homonyms and polysemes, i.e. words of different meaning but the same spelling and pronunciation, such as right and fly. For those people the term for what I am calling homographs is heteronyms, a term not much used by professional linguists. (Heterophone would be a much more appropriate description since what is different is the sound, not the name.)

Homographs are a minor problem for anyone learning English as a foreign language, but a much greater problem for anyone trying to design a foolproof text-to-speech algorithm for a computer. If one pronunciation is far commoner than the other (as with the word second, for instance) the programmer will probably ignore the exceptional case. Where both pronunciations occur frequently, as with object or read, the programmer must try to find contextual markers on which to base a rule.

The source of this list was the Roger Mitton machine-readable version of the 1974 Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, incorporating Mitton’s additions. The dictionary contained 537 words which had more than one pronunciation listed. Some of these were simply words with varying pronunciations and no shift of meaning, such as breeches, dowsing, and piano or varying stress patterns such as bow-wow, bye-bye, and fricassee, and these were discarded. There were also four strong-form/weak-form pairs, a, an, to and ‘cos (it is not clear why these were the only such pairs to emerge), three cases of abbreviations matching ordinary words, am (before noon), in (inch), and no (number), and one case of a loan word overlapping with an established English word, real (presumably referring to the old Spanish coin rather than the football team).

The remaining 488 words plus about seventy more which were not in the dictionary have been classified into relevant groupings and are listed below. The spellings and phonetic transcriptions are mainly as they appear in the dictionary, though I have used Gimsonian IPA symbols rather than the Alvey transcription that Mitton had to use so that he could store his dictionary as a text file. There is also a complete alphabetical checklist of homographs which you can consult if looking for a particular word.

Double stress

A number of double-stress words showed up. These are words whose pronunciation varies with their position in the phrase, front-stressed before a noun and end-stressed when final in the phrase, though without substantial change of meaning. (Compare “an overnight bag” with “Are you staying overnight?”)
inland ‘ɪnlənd ,ɪn’lænd
outside ‘aʊtsaɪd ,aʊt’saɪd
overall ‘əʊvərɔl ,əʊvə’rɔl
overhead ‘əʊvəhed ,əʊvə’hed
overnight ‘əʊvənaɪt ,əʊvə’naɪt
overweight ‘əʊvəweɪt ,əʊvə’weɪt

There are a number of other English words which behave in the same way, such as afternoon, bamboo, downhill, downstairs, inside, overseas, princess, routine, sardine, underground, upstairs, together with many compound adjectives (easy-going, home-made), all nationality adjectives ending in -ese, numbers from 13 to 99 (apart from multiples of 10), and many place names such as Bombay, Hong Kong, New York, and Torquay. In these other cases the dictionary did not record both stress patterns. Probably only the word overall (with its secondary meaning of an item of clothing) should be counted as a homograph, since in the other cases the change of pronunciation signals only a syntactic feature rather than a shift of meaning.

Stress homographs

The next distinct group, which was by far the largest, was the set of nouns (or adjectives) with front-stress against verbs (or adjectives) with end-stress with 288 words altogether. One suspects that in a good many cases the distinction is unnecessary for intelligibility; the set of -port words (export, import, transport) for instance are often heard with front stress even when being used as verbs, and I have heard on air the word increase stressed both ways as noun and both ways as verb. In thirty cases (listed in the table below) there is a large difference in meaning and use between the two spoken forms while in other cases the difference is more syntactic than lexical.

In most cases any adjective senses ally themselves with the noun and exhibit front stress, but in one case, content, the adjective sense is end-stressed and relates more closely to the verb than to the noun. The adjective compact seems to occur both front-stressed and end-stressed with no change of meaning, although the noun is always front-stressed and the verb always end-stressed. Similarly, the noun complex is always front-stressed, though the adjective seems to vary freely between front stress and end stress. Perhaps the most memorable example of its occurrence with end stress is in the line from the Tom Lehrer song about Oedipus Rex, “You must have heard of his complex complex.” (The force of the metre here tends to give both words end-stress.) All the other adjectives in the full list, absent, abstract, compound, converse, frequent, perfect, present, quadruple and second, were front-stressed.

Several problems occur with the prefix re-, for instance in the words recall and resent,where usage is inconsistent and is probably changing. In general the prefix re- often has the potential to enter homographs as one returns to earlier meanings of the base form. Thus we talk of reform /rɪ’fɔm/ in the church or the legal system, but a sculptor might reform /,ri’fɔm/ a clay model; you can make a remark /rɪ’mɑk/ in speech, while a teacher may remark /,ri’mɑk/ a contested exam paper. (This distinction is sometimes signalled by including a hyphen in the spelling for the second meanings, re-form and re-mark, so I have not included them in the list.)

There are four cases needing further comment.
The word entrance, while looking like a stress homograph, should perhaps be counted as a true homograph, since the noun sense derives from the verb enter while the verb sense derives from the noun trance.
The word deserts exists as two different nouns, one front-stressed meaning ‘dry places’, and the other end-stressed meaning ‘what one deserves’ and occurring usually in the fixed phrase ‘get one’s just deserts’. This second use has a homophone in the word desserts meaning ‘sweet courses’, which gives rise to many spelling errors and headline puns.
The word process exists as a noun with front-stress and as two different verbs, one with front-stress with a meaning linked to the noun process and one with end-stress with a meaning linked to the noun procession.
Similarly the word second exists as two separate verbs, one with front stress meaning to support a proposal at a formal meeting, and one with end stress meaning to send somebody away on temporary duty. The second use is fairly unusual, being mainly confined to military and civil service contexts.

The meanings of the thirty special cases are as follows:
Noun Adjective Verb
abstract summary not concrete to steal
collect prayer of the day to gather
compact container for face-powder occupying a small space to compress
complex set of psychological symptoms complicated
compound (1) substance combining chemical elements
(2) enclosed group of buildings not linear in progression to make more complex
concert musical performance to combine
conduct behaviour to direct an orchestra or choir
to allow electrons to pass along a wire
console control desk to comfort
content what is contained (to make) happy
contract formal agreement to become smaller
converse opposite to talk to another person
defile path between cliffs to make dirty
desert dry place to run away from
deserts (1) dry places (front-stressed)
(2) what one deserves (end-stressed) runs away from
entrance way in to give delight
essay piece of writing to attempt
exploit brave deed to take advantage
frequent often occurring to visit regularly
incense aromatic smoke to enrage
intern US trainee doctor to imprison
object thing, purpose to be against
present gift, time now in this place to hand over
process method (1) to modify (front-stressed)
(2) to move in procession (end-stressed)
proceeds money earned by selling something moves forwards
produce what is grown or made on a farm to make
project plan to stick out
recall request to return faulty goods to a factory remember
record (1) music on disc or a written log of events
(2) best ever performance or result to write down
refuse rubbish not to agree
second part of a minute number two in sequence (1) to support a proposal at a formal meeting (front-stressed)
(2) to send away on temporary duty (end-stressed)
subject topic to force a person to accept

This is the full list of 291 words:
absent ‘æbsənt əb’sent
abstract ‘æbstrækt əb’strækt
abstracts ‘æbstrækts əb’strækts
accent ‘æksənt æk’sent
accents ‘æksənts æk’sents
addict ‘ædɪkt ə’dɪkt
addicts ‘ædɪkts ə’dɪkts
advert ‘ædvɜt əd’vɜt
adverts ‘ædvɜts əd’vɜts
affix ‘æfɪks ə’fɪks
affixes æfɪksɪz ə’fɪksɪz
allies ‘ælaɪz ə’laɪz
alloy ‘æloɪ ə’loɪ
alloys ‘æloɪz ə’loɪz
ally ‘ælaɪ ə’laɪ
annex ‘æneks ə’neks
annexes ‘æneksɪz ə’neksɪz
attribute ‘ætrɪbjut ə’trɪbjut
attributes ‘ætrɪbjuts ə’trɪbjuts
co-star ‘kəʊ-stɑR ,kəʊ-‘stɑR
co-stars ‘kəʊ-stɑz ,kəʊ-‘stɑz
collect ‘kɒlekt kə’lekt
collects ‘kɒlekts kə’lekts
combine ‘kɒmbaɪn kəm’baɪn
combines ‘kɒmbaɪnz kəm’baɪnz
commune ‘kɒmjun kə’mjun
communes ‘kɒmjunz kə’mjunz
compact ‘kɒmpækt kəm’pækt
compacts ‘kɒmpækts kəm’pækts
complex ‘kɒmpleks kəm’pleks
compound ‘kɒmpaʊnd kəm’paʊnd
compounds ‘kɒmpaʊndz kəm’paʊndz
compress ‘kɒmpres kəm’pres
compresses ‘kɒmpresɪz kəm’presɪz
concert ‘kɒnsət kən’sɜt
concerts ‘kɒnsəts kən’sɜts
conduct ‘kɒndʌkt kən’dʌkt
confines ‘kɒnfaɪnz kən’faɪnz
conflict ‘kɒnflɪkt kən’flɪkt
conflicts ‘kɒnflɪkts kən’flɪkts
conscript ‘kɒnskrɪpt kən’skrɪpt
conscripts ‘kɒnskrɪpts kən’skrɪpts
console ‘kɒnsəʊl kən’səʊl
consoles ‘kɒnsəʊlz kən’səʊlz
consort ‘kɒnsɔt kən’sɔt
consorts ‘kɒnsɔts kən’sɔts
content ‘kɒntent kən’tent
contents ‘kɒntents kən’tents
contest ‘kɒntest kən’test
contests ‘kɒntests kən’tests
contract ‘kɒntrækt kən’trækt
contracts ‘kɒntrækts kən’trækts
contrast ‘kɒntrɑst kən’trɑst
contrasts ‘kɒntrɑsts kən’trɑsts
converse ‘kɒnvɜs kən’vɜs
convert ‘kɒnvɜt kən’vɜt
converts ‘kɒnvɜts kən’vɜts
convict ‘kɒnvɪkt kən’vɪkt
convicts ‘kɒnvɪkts kən’vɪkts
counterbalance ‘kaʊntəbæləns ,kaʊntə’bæləns
counterbalances ‘kaʊntəbælənsɪz ,kaʊntə’bælənsɪz
decoy ‘dikoɪ dɪ’koɪ
decoys ‘dikoɪz dɪ’koɪz
decrease ‘dikris dɪ’kris
decreases ‘dikrisɪz dɪ’krisɪz
defect ‘difekt dɪ’fekt
defects ‘difekts dɪ’fekts
defile ‘difaɪl dɪ’faɪl
defiles ‘difaɪlz dɪ’faɪlz
descant ‘deskænt dɪ’skænt
descants ‘deskænts dɪ’skænts
desert ‘dezət dɪ’zɜt
deserts ‘dezəts dɪ’zɜts
dictate ‘dɪkteɪt dɪk’teɪt
dictates ‘dɪkteɪts dɪk’teɪts
digest ‘daɪʤest dɪ’ʤest
digests ‘daɪʤests dɪ’ʤests
discard ‘dɪskɑd dɪ’skɑd
discards ‘dɪskɑdz dɪ’skɑdz
discharge ‘dɪsʧɑʤ dɪ’sʧɑʤ
discharges ‘dɪsʧɑʤɪz dɪ’sʧɑʤɪz
discount ‘dɪskaʊnt dɪs’kaʊnt
discounts ‘dɪskaʊnts dɪs’kaʊnts
discourse ‘dɪskɔs dɪ’skɔs
discourses ‘dɪskɔsɪz dɪ’skɔsɪz
entrance ‘entrəns ɪn’trɑns
entrances ‘entrənsɪz ɪn’trɑnsɪz
escort ‘eskɔt ɪ’skɔt
escorts ‘eskɔts ɪ’skɔts
essay ‘eseɪ e’seɪ
essays ‘eseɪz e’seɪz
excess ‘ekses ɪk’ses
excise ‘eksaɪz ɪk’saɪz
exploit ‘eksploɪt ɪk’sploɪt
exploits ‘eksploɪts ɪk’sploɪts
export ‘ekspɔt ɪk’spɔt
exports ‘ekspɔts ɪk’spɔts
extract ‘ekstrækt ɪk’strækt
extracts ‘ekstrækts ɪk’strækts
ferment ‘fɜment fə’ment
ferments ‘fɜments fə’ments
filtrate ‘fɪltreɪt fɪl’treɪt
filtrates ‘fɪltreɪts fɪl’treɪts
fragment ‘frægmənt fræg’ment
fragments ‘frægmənts fræg’ments
frequent ‘frikwənt frɪ’kwent
impact ‘ɪmpækt ɪm’pækt
impacts ‘ɪmpækts ɪm’pækts
implant ‘ɪmplɑnt ɪm’plɑnt
implants ‘ɪmplɑnts ɪm’plɑnts
import ‘ɪmpɔt ɪm’pɔt
imports ‘ɪmpɔts ɪm’pɔts
impress ‘ɪmpres ɪm’pres
impresses ‘ɪmpresɪz ɪm’presɪz
imprint ‘ɪmprɪnt ɪm’prɪnt
imprints ‘ɪmprɪnts ɪm’prɪnts
incense ‘ɪnsens ɪn’sens
incline ‘ɪnklaɪn ɪn’klaɪn
inclines ‘ɪnklaɪnz ɪn’klaɪnz/td>
increase ‘ɪŋkris ɪn’kris
increases ‘ɪŋkrisɪz ɪn’krisɪz
indent ‘ɪndent ɪn’dent
indents ‘ɪndents ɪn’dents
inlay ‘ɪnleɪ ,ɪn’leɪ
inlays ‘ɪnleɪz ,ɪn’leɪz
insert ‘ɪnsɜt ɪn’sɜt
inserts ‘ɪnsɜts ɪn’sɜts
inset ‘ɪnset ,ɪn’set
insets ‘ɪnsets ,ɪn’sets
instinct ‘ɪnstɪŋkt ,ɪn’stɪŋkt
insult ‘ɪnsʌlt ɪn’sʌlt
insults ‘ɪnsʌlts ɪn’sʌlts
interchange ‘ɪntəʧeɪnʤ ,ɪntə’ʧeɪnʤ
interchanges ‘ɪntəʧeɪnʤɪz ,ɪntə’ʧeɪnʤɪz
interdict ‘ɪntədɪkt ,ɪntə’dɪkt
interdicts ‘ɪntədɪkts ,ɪntə’dɪkts
intern ‘ɪntɜn ɪn’tɜn
interns ‘ɪntɜnz ɪn’tɜnz
introvert ‘ɪntrəvɜt ,ɪntrə’vɜt
introverts ‘ɪntrəvɜts ,ɪntrə’vɜts
inverse ‘ɪnvɜs ɪn’vɜs
invite ‘ɪnvaɪt ɪn’vaɪt
invites ‘ɪnvaɪts ɪn’vaɪts
mandate ‘mændeɪt ,mæn’deɪt
misconduct ,mɪs’kɒndʌkt ,mɪskən’dʌkt
misprint ‘mɪsprɪnt ,mɪs’prɪnt
misprints ‘mɪsprɪnts ,mɪs’prɪnts
object ‘ɒbʤɪkt əb’ʤekt
objects ‘ɒbʤɪkts əb’ʤekts
overbid ‘əʊvəbɪd ,əʊvə’bɪd
overbids ‘əʊvəbɪdz ,əʊvə’bɪdz
overcharge ‘əʊvəʧɑʤ ,əʊvə’ʧɑʤ
overcharges ‘əʊvəʧɑʤɪz ,əʊvə’ʧɑʤɪz
overflow ‘əʊvəfləʊ ,əʊvə’fləʊ
overflows ‘əʊvəfləʊz ,əʊvə’fləʊz
overhang ‘əʊvəhæŋ ,əʊvə’hæŋ
overhangs ‘əʊvəhæŋz ,əʊvə’hæŋz
overhaul ‘əʊvəhɔl ,əʊvə’hɔl
overhauls ‘əʊvəhɔlz ,əʊvə’hɔlz
overlap ‘əʊvəlæp əʊvə’læp
overlaps ‘əʊvəlæps ,əʊvə’læps
overlay ‘əʊvəleɪ ,əʊvə’leɪ
overlays ‘əʊvəleɪz ,əʊvə’leɪz
overprint ‘əʊvəprɪnt ,əʊvə’prɪnt/td>
overprints ‘əʊvəprɪnts ,əʊvə’prɪnts
overstrain ‘əʊvəstreɪn ,əʊvə’streɪn
overthrow ‘əʊvəƟrəʊ ,əʊvə’Ɵrəʊ
overthrows ‘əʊvəƟrəʊz ,əʊvə’Ɵrəʊz
overwork ‘əʊvəwɜk ,əʊvə’wɜk
perfect ‘pɜfɪkt pə’fekt
perfume ‘pɜfjum pə’fjum
perfumes ‘pɜfjumz pə’fjumz
permit ‘pɜmɪt pə’mɪt
permits ‘pɜmɪts pə’mɪts
pervert ‘pɜvɜt pə’vɜt
perverts ‘pɜvɜts pə’vɜts
prefix ‘prifɪks ,pri’fɪks
prefixes ‘prifɪksɪz ,pri’fɪksɪz
presage ‘presɪʤ prɪ’seɪʤ
presages ‘presɪʤɪz prɪ’seɪʤɪz
present ‘preznt prɪ’zent
presents ‘preznts prɪ’zents
proceeds ‘prəʊsidz prə’sidz
process ‘prəʊses prə’ses
processed ‘prəʊsest prə’sest
processes ‘prəʊsesɪz prə’sesɪz
processing ‘prəʊsesɪŋ prə’sesɪŋ
produce ‘prɒdjus prə’djus
progress ‘prəʊgres prə’gres
progresses ‘prəʊgresɪz prə’gresɪz
project ‘prɒʤekt prə’ʤekt
projects ‘prɒʤekts prə’ʤekts
prolapse ‘prəʊlæps prəʊ’læps
prolapses ‘prəʊlæpsɪz prəʊ’læpsɪz
prospect ‘prɒspekt prə’spekt
prospects ‘prɒspekts prə’spekts
prostrate ‘prɒstreɪt prɒ’streɪt
protest ‘prəʊtest prə’test
protests ‘prəʊtests prə’tests
purport ‘pɜpət pə’pɔt
quadruple ‘kwɒdrupl kwɒ’drupl
quadruples ‘kwɒdruplz kwɒ’druplz
rampage ‘ræmpeɪʤ ,ræm’peɪʤ
rampages ‘ræmpeɪʤɪz ,ræm’peɪʤɪz
rebel ‘rebəl rɪ’bel
rebels ‘rebəlz rɪ’belz
rebound ‘ribaʊnd ,ri’baʊnd
rebounds ‘ribaʊndz rɪ’baʊndz
recall rɪ’kɔl ‘rikɔl
recap ‘rikæp ,ri’kæp
recapped ‘rikæpt ,ri’kæpt
recapping ‘rikæpɪŋ ,ri’kæpɪŋ
recaps ‘rikæps ,ri’kæps
record ‘rekɔd rɪ’kɔd
records ‘rekɔdz rɪ’kɔdz
re-count ‘ri-kaʊnt ,ri-‘kaʊnt
re-counts ‘ri-kaʊnts ,ri-‘kaʊnts
refill ‘rifɪl ,ri’fɪl
refills ‘rifɪlz ,ri’fɪlz
refit ‘rifɪt ,ri’fɪt
refits ‘rifɪts ,ri’fɪts
refund ‘rifʌnd rɪ’fʌnd
refunds ‘rifʌndz rɪ’fʌndz
refuse ‘refjus rɪ’fjuz
rehash ‘rihæʃ ,ri’hæʃ
rehashes ‘rihæʃɪz ,ri’hæʃɪz
reject ‘riʤekt rɪ’ʤekt
rejects ‘riʤekts rɪ’ʤekts
rejoin ,ri’ʤoɪn rɪ’ʤoɪn
rejoined ,ri’ʤoɪnd rɪ’ʤoɪnd
rejoining ,ri’ʤoɪnɪŋ rɪ’ʤoɪnɪŋ
rejoins ,ri’ʤoɪnz rɪ’ʤoɪnz
relay ‘rileɪ ,ri’leɪ
relaying ,ri’leɪɪŋ rɪ’leɪɪŋ
relays ‘rileɪz ,ri’leɪz
relays ,ri’leɪz rɪ’leɪz
remake ‘rimeɪk ,ri’meɪk
remakes ‘rimeɪks ,ri’meɪks
remount ‘rimaʊnt ,ri’maʊnt
remounts ‘rimaʊnts ,ri’maʊnts
replay ‘ripleɪ ,ri’pleɪ
replays ‘ripleɪz ,ri’pleɪz
reprint ‘riprɪnt ,ri’prɪnt
reprints ‘riprɪnts ,ri’prɪnts
rerun ‘rirʌn ,ri’rʌn
reruns ‘rirʌnz ,ri’rʌnz
retake ‘riteɪk ,ri’teɪk
retakes ‘riteɪks ,ri’teɪks
rethink ‘riƟɪŋk ,ri’Ɵɪŋk
rethinks ‘riƟɪŋks ,ri’Ɵɪŋks
retread ‘ritred ,ri’tred
retreads ‘ritredz ,ri’tredz
rewrite ‘riraɪt ,ri’raɪt
rewrites ‘riraɪts ,ri’raɪts
second ‘sekənd sɪ’kɒnd
seconded ‘sekəndɪd sɪ’kɒndɪd
seconding ‘sekəndɪŋ sɪ’kɒndɪŋ
seconds ‘sekəndz sɪ’kɒndz
segment ‘segmənt seg’ment
segments ‘segmənts seg’ments
subcontract ,sʌb’kɒntrækt ,sʌbkən’trækt
subcontracts ,sʌb’kɒntrækts ,sʌbkən’trækts
subject ‘sʌbʤɪkt səb’ʤekt
subjects ‘sʌbʤɪkts səb’ʤekts
surmise ‘sɜmaɪz sə’maɪz
surmises ‘sɜmaɪzɪz sə’maɪzɪz
survey ‘sɜveɪ sə’veɪ
surveys ‘sɜveɪz sə’veɪz
suspect ‘sʌspekt sə’spekt
suspects ‘sʌspekts sə’spekts
torment ‘tɔment tɔ’ment
torments ‘tɔments tɔ’ments
transfer ‘trænsfɜR træns’fɜR
transfers ‘trænsfɜz træns’fɜz
transplant ‘trænsplɑnt træns’plɑnt
transplants ‘trænsplɑnts træns’plɑnts
transport ‘trænspɔt træn’spɔt
transports ‘trænspɔts træn’spɔts
undercharge ‘ʌndəʧɑʤ ,ʌndə’ʧɑʤ
undercharges ‘ʌndəʧɑʤɪz ,ʌndə’ʧɑʤɪz
undercut ‘ʌndəkʌt ,ʌndə’kʌt
underlay ‘ʌndəleɪ ,ʌndə’leɪ
underline ‘ʌndəlaɪn ,ʌndə’laɪn
underlines ‘ʌndəlaɪnz ,ʌndə’laɪnz
undertaking ‘ʌndəteɪkɪŋ ,ʌndə’teɪkɪŋ
undertakings ‘ʌndəteɪkɪŋz ,ʌndə’teɪkɪŋz
upgrade ‘ʌpgreɪd ,ʌp’greɪd
upgrades ‘ʌpgreɪdz ,ʌp’greɪdz
uplift ‘ʌplɪft ,ʌp’lɪft
upset ‘ʌpset ,ʌp’set
upsets ‘ʌpsets ,ʌp’sets

There were two interesting words which reversed the trend of this set, words where the front-stressed form was the (3rd person singular) verb and a form with stress later in the word was the (plural) noun:analyses ‘ænəlaɪzɪz ə’næləsiz
diagnoses ‘daɪəgnəʊzɪz ,daɪəg’nəʊsiz

-ATE words

Another large group was the set of words ending with -ate where the noun/adjective sense uses a schwa while the verb sense uses a full /eɪ/ diphthong. There were 42 of these (or 69 counting the inflectional variants). All of them retain the same stress pattern whether noun/adjective or verb except for alternate and consummate which, like analyses and diagnoses and unlike the other stress homographs, puts the stress at the front for the verb and later for the noun/adjective. (See Higgins 1984 for a discussion of the phenomenon.) advocate ‘ædvəkət ‘ædvəkeɪt
advocates ‘ædvəkəts ‘ædvəkeɪts
agglomerate ə’glɒmərət ə’glɒməreɪt
aggregate ‘ægrɪgət ‘ægrɪgeɪt
aggregates ‘ægrɪgəts ‘ægrɪgeɪts
alternate ɔl’tɜnət ‘ɔltəneɪt
animate ‘ænɪmət ‘ænɪmeɪt
appropriate ə’prəʊprɪət ə’prəʊprɪeɪt
approximate ə’prɒksɪmət ə’prɒksɪmeɪt
articulate ɑ’tɪkjʊlət ɑ’tɪkjʊleɪt
aspirate ‘æspɪrət ‘æspɪreɪt
aspirates ‘æspɪrəts ‘æspɪreɪts
associate ə’səʊʃɪət ə’səʊʃɪeɪt
associates ə’səʊʃɪəts ə’səʊʃɪeɪts
certificate sə’tɪfɪkət sə’tɪfɪkeɪt
certificates sə’tɪfɪkəts sə’tɪfɪkeɪts
confederate kən’fedərət kən’fedəreɪt
confederates kən’fedərəts kən’fedəreɪts
conglomerate kən’glɒmərət kən’glɒməreɪt
conglomerates kən’glɒmərəts kən’glɒməreɪts
consummate ‘kɒnsəmeɪt kən’sʌmət
coordinate ,kəʊ’ɔdənət ,kəʊ’ɔdɪneɪt
coordinates ,kəʊ’ɔdənəts ,kəʊ’ɔdɪneɪts
degenerate dɪ’ʤenərət dɪ’ʤenəreɪt
degenerates dɪ’ʤenərəts dɪ’ʤenəreɪts
delegate ‘delɪgət ‘delɪgeɪt
delegates ‘delɪgəts ‘delɪgeɪts
deliberate dɪ’lɪbərət dɪ’lɪbəreɪt
desolate ‘desələt ‘desəleɪt
duplicate ‘djuplɪkət ‘djuplɪkeɪt
duplicates ‘djuplɪkəts ‘djuplɪkeɪts
elaborate ɪ’læbərət ɪ’læbəreɪt
estimate ‘estɪmət ‘estɪmeɪt
estimates ‘estɪməts ‘estɪmeɪts
expatriate eks’pætrɪət eks’pætrɪeɪt
expatriates eks’pætrɪəts eks’pætrɪeɪts
graduate ‘græʤʊət ‘græʤʊeɪt
graduates ‘græʤʊəts ‘græʤʊeɪts
incarnate ɪn’kɑnət ɪn’kɑneɪt
incorporate ɪn’kɔpərət ɪn’kɔpəreɪt
inebriate ɪ’nibrɪət ɪ’nibrɪeɪt
inebriates ɪ’nibrɪəts ɪ’nibrɪeɪts
initiate ɪ’nɪʃɪət ɪ’nɪʃɪeɪt
initiates ɪ’nɪʃɪəts ɪ’nɪʃɪeɪts
intimate ‘ɪntɪmət ‘ɪntɪmeɪt
intimates ‘ɪntɪməts ‘ɪntɪmeɪts
moderate ‘mɒdərət ‘mɒdəreɪt
moderates ‘mɒdərəts ‘mɒdəreɪts
pontificate pɒn’tɪfɪkət pɒn’tɪfɪkeɪt
pontificates pɒn’tɪfɪkəts pɒn’tɪfɪkeɪts
precipitate prɪ’sɪpɪtət prɪ’sɪpɪteɪt
predicate ‘predɪkət ‘predɪkeɪt
predicates ‘predɪkəts ‘predɪkeɪts
quadruplicate kwɒ’druplɪkət kwɒ’druplɪkeɪt
quadruplicates kwɒ’druplɪkəts kwɒ’druplɪkeɪts
regenerate rɪ’ʤenərət rɪ’ʤenəreɪt
reincarnate ,riɪn’kɑnət ,riɪn’kɑneɪt
reticulate rɪ’tɪkjʊlət rɪ’tɪkjʊleɪt
separate ‘seprət ‘sepəreɪt
separates ‘seprəts ‘sepəreɪts
subordinate sə’bɔdɪnət sə’bɔdɪneɪt
subordinates sə’bɔdɪnəts sə’bɔdɪneɪts
syndicate ‘sɪndɪkət ‘sɪndɪkeɪt
syndicates ‘sɪndɪkəts ‘sɪndɪkeɪts
triplicate ‘trɪplɪkət ‘trɪplɪkeɪt
triplicates ‘trɪplɪkəts ‘trɪplɪkeɪts
underestimate ,ʌndə’restɪmət ,ʌndə’restɪmeɪt
underestimates ,ʌndə’restɪməts ,ʌndə’restɪmeɪts

-MENT words

A similar but smaller group was the set of words ending with -ment where the noun sense uses a schwa while the verb sense uses a full vowel. There were five of these (ten including the inflectional variants).
compliment ‘kɒmplɪmənt ‘kɒmplɪment
compliments ‘kɒmplɪmənts ‘kɒmplɪments
document ‘dɒkjʊmənt ‘dɒkjʊment
documents ‘dɒkjʊmənts ‘dɒkjʊments
implement ‘implɪmənt ‘ɪmplɪment
implements ‘ɪmplɪmənts ‘ɪmplɪments
ornament ‘ɔnəmənt ‘ɔnəment
ornaments ‘ɔnəmənts ‘ɔnəments
supplement ‘sʌplɪmənt ‘sʌplɪment
supplements ‘sʌplɪmənts ‘sʌplɪments

A fifth set was that in which the noun/verb or adjective/verb distinction was made by voicing a final consonant. There were seventeen of these. One of them, the word close, exists as a verb with /z/, as an adjective with /s/, and as two different nouns, with /z/ meaning ‘conclusion’ and with /s/ meaning ‘street with no exit’. It is also worth noting the way used occurs with /s/ in the colligation ‘used to’ to make a past tense while the pronunciation with /z/ has the meaning ’employed’.
abuse ə’bjus ə’bjuz
abuses ə’bjusɪz ə’bjuzɪz
baths bɑɵz bɑðs
close kləʊs kləʊz
closes ‘kləʊsɪz ‘kləʊzɪz
diffuse dɪ’fjus dɪ’fjuz
excuse ɪk’skjus ɪk’skjuz
excuses ɪk’skjusɪz ɪk’skjuzɪz
house haʊs haʊz
misuse ,mɪs’jus ,mɪs’juz
misuses ,mɪs’jusɪz ,mɪs’juzɪz
mouth maʊɵ maʊð
mouths maʊɵs maʊðz
unused ʌn’just ʌn’juzd
use jus juz
used just juzd
uses ‘jusɪz ‘juzɪz

Two more small groups could also be identified and separated. The first was the nine -ed adjectives with matching verb past tenses: aged ‘eɪʤɪd eɪʤd
blessed ‘blesɪd blest
crabbed ‘kræbɪd kræbd
crooked ‘krʊkɪd krʊkt
cursed ‘kɜsɪd kɜst
dogged ‘dɒgɪd dɒgd
jagged ‘ʤægɪd ʤægd
learned ‘lɜnɪd lɜnd
ragged ‘rægɪd rægd

Not in the dictionary with both pronunciations but behaving similarly is the word beloved, which has three syllables as a noun or attributive adjective, but only two as a passive participle. (“I loved and was beloved again”: Byron.) This dictionary listed wicked only as a two-syllable adjective, but the full OED also lists a one-syllable pronunciation, meaning “having a wick”.

The other group was the set of French loan words whose Anglicised plural is not represented in the spelling. Only three were recorded in the lists, but one expects there must be more.
corps kɔ kɔz
patois ‘pætwɑ ‘pætwɑz
rendezvous ‘rɒndɪvu ‘rɒndɪvuz

“True” homographs

That left the following set of 91 homographs (144 if all the inflectional variants are counted) arising from a variety of causes. This section of the list includes those words like moped and wound which are most typical of what we have in mind when we think of homographs. These include a number which were not in the original dictionary list.

I have included several which contrast an ordinary word with a place name: the words nice, angers, lens and tours all contrasting with French cities, trier with a German city, reading with an English town, scone with a Scottish village and palace, wear with an English river, tangier with a Moroccan port and natal with a South African province. Like job/Job, august/August, and polish/Polish they are distinguished by capitalisation and would only be homographs in sentence-initial position or in all-upper-case writing. The word romance as a verb meaning to pay court to would most likely have the schwa in the first syllable, while romance meaning a piece of fiction could have either schwa or a full diphthong, and Romance as a description of languages derived from Latin would almost certainly have the full diphthong. The surname Brazil is usually front-stressed (as in Angela Brazil the author) while the name of the country is end-stressed. The girl’s name Nancy is another homograph in contrast with a French city. The word dove is a homograph for speakers of Amercian English but not for the British for whom the past tense of dive is dived. In four cases of recent loan words, pate, rose, resume and attaches,the homograph is disambiguated by retaining the French accents in the English spelling. The contrast between the two-syllable and three-syllable pronunciations of evening may not be consistently made by all RP speakers, though all would recognise it, I believe.

Many of these words are particularly popular with crossword setters since they allow for the creation of misleading cryptic clues. (See below for examples.)

agape ‘ægəpɪ ə’geɪp
(Christian love/open-mouthed)

angers/Angers ‘æŋgəz ‘ɒŋʒeɪ
(makes angry, city in France)

attachés/attaches ə’taeʃeɪz ə’taetʃɪz
(diplomats/fastens together; not a homograph if one retains the accent)

august/August ɔ’gʌst ‘ɔgəst
(solemn/eighth month)

axes ‘æksɪz ‘æksiz
(plural of axe/plural of axis)

aye aɪ eɪ

baas bɑs bɑz
(South African boss/makes a sheep-like noise)

bases ‘beɪsɪz ‘beɪsiz
(plural of base/plural of basis)

bass bæs beɪs
(kind of fish/low voice)

bow bəʊ baʊ
bowed bəʊd baʊd
bowing ‘bəʊɪŋ ‘baʊɪŋ
bows bəʊz baʊz
(play violin/bend from the waist)

bower ‘bəʊə ‘baʊə
bowers ‘bəʊəz ‘baʊəz
(violinist/tree-shaded place)

Brazil ‘bræzl brə’zɪl
(English surname/South American country)

buffet ‘bʊfeɪ ‘bʌfɪt
buffets ‘bʊfeɪz ‘bʌfɪts
(help-yourself table/blow)

bustier ‘bʌstɪeɪ ‘bʌstɪə
(a garment/with a larger bosom)

cave keɪv keɪ’vi
(rock dwelling/schoolboys’ warning of an approaching master)

cleanly ‘klenlɪ ‘klinlɪ

denier ‘denɪə dɪ’naɪə
(stocking measure, one who denies)

do dəʊ du
(musical note/auxiliary verb)

does dəʊz dʌz
(female deer/auxiliary verb)

dove dəʊv dʌv
(past of dive (US)/bird of peace)

drawer drɔ drɔə
drawers drɔz drɔəz
(sliding container in a desk/one who draws a cheque—as in “refer to drawer”)

entrance ‘entrəns ɪn’trɑns
entrances ‘entrənsɪz ɪn’trɑnsɪz
(way in/give delight)

evening ‘ivnɪŋ ‘ivənɪŋ
(period after sunset/making smooth or equal, as in “evening the score”)

finish ‘fɪnɪʃ ‘faɪnɪʃ
(complete/somewhat fine)

flower ‘flaʊə ‘fləʊə
flowers ‘flaʊəz ‘fləʊəz
(plant/something that flows)

forbear ‘fɔbeə fɔ’beə
forbears ‘fɔbeəz fɔ’beəz
(ancestor/not do)

forearm ‘fɔrɑm ,fɔ’rɑm
forearms ‘fɔrɑmz ,fɔ’rɑmz
(part of the arm/prepare for danger)

furrier ‘fɜrɪə ‘fʌrɪə
(more furry/fur dealer)

gallant ‘gælənt gə’lænt

gill ʤɪl gɪl
gills ʤɪlz gɪlz
(liquid measure/part of fish)

glower ‘glaʊə ‘gləʊə
glowers ‘glaʊəz ‘gləʊəz
(frown/something that glows)

grave grɑv greɪv
graves grɑvz greɪvz
(French accent/burial place)

housewife ‘haʊswaɪf ‘hʌzɪf
housewives ‘haʊswaɪvz ‘hʌzɪfs
(married woman who looks after the household/sewing kit issued to soldiers)

invalid ‘ɪnvəlɪd ɪn’vælɪd
(sick person/out of date)

job/Job ʤɒb ʤəʊb
(work/character in the Old Testament)

layer ‘leə ‘leɪə
layers ‘leəz ‘leɪəz

lead led lid
leading ‘ledɪŋ ‘lidɪŋ
leads ledz lidz
(metal/go first)

lens/Lens lenz lɒŋs
(shaped glass for focussing light/French city)

lied laɪd lit
(told lies/German song)

live lɪv laɪv
lives lɪvz laɪvz

lower ‘ləʊə ‘laʊə
lowered ‘ləʊəd ‘laʊəd
lowering ‘ləʊərɪŋ ‘laʊərɪŋ
lowers ‘ləʊəz ‘laʊəz
(make more low/frown)

manes ‘mɑneɪz meɪnz
(customs/fur round animal’s neck)

minute ‘mɪnɪt maɪ’njut
(unit of time/very small)

moped ‘məʊped məʊpt
(motor-cycle/was gloomy)

mow məʊ maʊ
mowed məʊd maʊd
mowing ‘məʊɪŋ ‘maʊɪŋ
mows məʊz maʊz
(cut grass/grimace)

multiply ‘mʌltɪplaɪ ‘mʌltɪplɪ

Nancy ‘nænsɪ ‘nɒŋsɪ
(English girl’s name/French city)

natal/Natal ‘neɪtl nə’tɑl
(concerning birth/province of South Africa)

nice/Nice naɪs nis
(pleasant/city in France)

number ‘nʌmbə ‘nʌmə
numbers ‘nʌmbəz ‘nʌməz
(numerical value/thing which makes (more) numb)

palled pæld pɔld
palling ‘pælɪŋ ‘pɔlɪŋ
(made friends/became boring)

pasty ‘pæstɪ ‘peɪstɪ

pâté/pate ‘pæteɪ peɪt
(meat spread/bald head; not a homograph if one retains the accents)

peer pɪə ‘piə
peers pɪəz ‘piəz
(look closely/one who pees)

pension ‘pɒnsɪɒn ‘penʃn
pensions ‘pɒnsɪɒnz ‘penʃnz
(boarding-house/salary in retirement)

periodic pɪərɪ’ɒdɪk ‘pə’raɪədɪk
(occurring at intervals/in ‘periodic acid’ containing more oxygen than iodic acid)

polish/Polish ‘pɒlɪʃ ‘pəʊlɪʃ
(make shiny/from Poland)

poll pɒl pəʊl
polls pɒlz pəʊlz
(parrots/opinion surveys)

prayer ‘preə ‘preɪə
prayers ‘preəz ‘preɪəz
(what is said to God/person who prays)

pussy ‘pʊsɪ ‘pʌsɪ
(beloved cat/oozing pus)

put pʊt pʌt
puts pʊts pʌts
putting ‘pʊtɪŋ ‘pʌtɪŋ
(place/hit a golf ball on the green, often spelled PUTT)

read rid red
lip-read ‘lɪp-rid ‘lɪp-red
misread ,mɪs’rid ,mɪs’red
proofread ‘prufrid ‘prufred
reread ri’rid ri’red
(present tense/past tense)

reading/Reading ‘ridɪŋ ‘redɪŋ
(looking at words/town in Berkshire or Massachusetts)

recall rɪ’kɔl ‘rikɔl
(remember/return of faulty product to a factory)

reproof ,ri’pruf rɪ’pruf
reproofs ,ri’prufs rɪ’prufs
(proofread again/criticism)

resent rɪ’zent ,ri’sent
(feel bitter/transmitted again)

resume/resumé rɪ’zjum ‘rezjʊ,meɪ
(start again/CV; not a homograph if one retains the accent)

romance/Romance rə’mæns rəʊ’mæns
(pay court to or piece of fiction/language derived from Latin)

rose/rosé rəʊz ‘rəʊzeɪ
(kind of flower/pink wine; not a homograph if one retains the accent)

routed ‘raʊtɪd ‘rutɪd
routing ‘raʊtɪŋ ‘rutɪŋ
(comprehensively beating in battle/sending on a particular way, sometimes spelled ROUTEING)

row rəʊ raʊ
rowed rəʊd raʊd
rowing ‘rəʊɪŋ ‘raʊɪŋ
rows rəʊz raʊz
(propel a boat/argue)

sake seɪk ‘sɑkɪ
(behalf/Japanese drink)

scone/Scone skɒn skun
(small cake/village and palace near Perth in Scotland)

sewer ‘səʊə ‘sjuə
sewers ‘səʊəz ‘sjuəz
(person who sews/drain)

shower ‘ʃaʊə ‘ʃəʊə
showers ‘ʃaʊəz ‘ʃəʊəz
(short rainfall/one who shows)

skier ‘skiə ‘skaɪə
skiers ‘skiəz ‘skaɪəz
(one who skis/ball hit high into the air)

slaver ‘slævə ‘sleɪvə
slavers ‘slævəz ‘sleɪvəz
(foam at the mouth/ship carrying slaves)

slough slʌf slaʊ
sloughs slʌfs slaʊz
(discard skin/marsh)

sow səʊ saʊ
sows səʊz saʊz
(spread seed/female pig)

supply ‘sʌplɪ sə’plaɪ
(in a supple way/provide)

swinging ‘swɪŋɪŋ ‘swɪnʤɪŋ
(from swing/from swinge, often spelled SWINGEING)

tangier/Tangier ‘tæŋɪə tæn’ʤɪə
(more strong-tasting/port in Morocco)

tarry ‘tærɪ ‘tɑrɪ
(wait/covered with tar)

tear tɪə teə
tears tɪəz teəz
(liquid from the eyes/rip in cloth)

tier ‘taɪə tɪə
tiers ‘taɪəz tɪəz
(one who ties/row of seats)

tinged tɪŋd tɪnʤd
tinging ‘tɪŋɪŋ ‘tɪnʤɪŋ
(made a bell sound/added colour, more often spelled TINGEING)

tours/Tours tʊəz tʊə
(travels around/city in France)

tower ‘taʊə ‘təʊə
towers ‘taʊəz ‘təʊəz
(tall building/one who tows)

trier/Trier traɪ#601; triə
(one who tries/German city)

unionised/unionized ‘junɪənaɪzd ʌn’aɪənaɪzd
(with an organised work force/not ionised as in “unionised ammonia”)

valence ‘væləns ‘veɪləns
valences ‘vælənsɪz ‘veɪlənsɪz
(hanging border–also spelled ‘valance’/chemical bond–also spelled ‘valency’)

wear/Wear weə wɪə
(put on clothes/river in the north of England)
wind wɪnd waɪnd
winding ‘wɪndɪŋ ‘waɪndɪŋ
winds wɪndz waɪndz
(moving air/twist a knob)

worsted ‘wɜstɪd ‘wʊstɪd

wound waʊnd wund
(past of WIND/hurt in battle)

Quite: a tonemic homograph
One other word worth drawing attention to is quite. This has two distinct meanings, completely as in “You’re quite right” and to some extent as in “He’s quite clever”. Although both senses are pronounced the same at the segmental level, i.e. the same sequence of vowels and consonants, they are consistently differentiated by intonation, the first sense occurring in phrases with a falling tone and the second in phrases with a fall-rise. This makes it apparently the only example of a toneme distinction in English, i.e. a case where a distinction in the meaning of a word is resolved by a tone difference. I would argue that this meets the definition of a homograph, namely two meanings, two pronunciations, but only one spelling.

There is one homograph I know of (there may be more) which arises from abbreviating two different words. Reg is pronounced /reʤ/ when it is short for Reginald or registration, as in “a T-reg car”. It is pronounced /reg/ when it is short for regulation as in “Queen’s Regs” (the British Army’s rule book). Luckily the second form is almost always plural and the first almost always singular, so there is little chance of confusion. There are at least three cases where a homograph arises between a full word and an abbreviation. One is the homograph of path, which is pronounced /pɑƟ/ by RP speakers in its ordinary meaning as a place to walk, and /pæƟ/ when it is an abbreviation for pathology, as in “we are waiting for the path reports”; another is the abbreviation Staffs /stæfs/ for Staffordshire against the word staffs /stɑfs/, which would be homographs in upper-case writing; and a third is the word coax pronounced /kəʊks/ meaning ‘persuade’ versus the abbreviation for coaxial cable coax pronounced /kəʊ’æks/.
Place names

Another special case is place names. In England there are three small towns called Gillingham. The one in Kent is pronounced /’ʤɪlɪŋəm/ while the ones in Dorset and Norfolk are pronounced /’gɪlɪŋəm/. Unfortunately only people who live locally to one of these towns (as I do) would be likely to know this and maintain the distinction consistently. There are four communities called Plaistow, pronounced /’pleɪstəʊ/ in Derby, /’plɑstəʊ/ in Kent or Essex, and /’plæstəʊ/ in Sussex. Alford is pronounced /’ɑfəd if you are referring to the Scottish one or /’ɔlfəd if you mean the English one. Lagos in Nigeria is pronounced /’leɪgɒs/ while Lagos in Portugal is usually / ‘lɑgɒs/. A similar case is Berkeley in California, pronounced /’bɜklɪ/ (by RP speakers) or /’brklɪ/, contrasted with Berkeley in the west of England, pronounced /’bɑklɪ/. There is also the case of the Kentucky Derby, pronounced /’dɜrbɪ/, and the British horse race, the Derby at Epsom, pronounced /’dɑbɪ/. I suspect there are a good many more cases of pairs of places in different countries with the same spelling and different pronunciations.



January 18, 2010 at 9:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. In the sentence “The two boys want to play too.” the three highlighted words are pronounced identically, but in each case the spelling is different. To, too, and two are homonyms.

There are hundreds of pairs of homonyms in the English language, far too many for us to list them all here. So we will concentrate on groups of homonyms in which three (sometimes more) words are all pronounced identically.

You may find that in the dialect you speak, some of these are not actually homonyms. There tend to be far more homonyms in American and Scottish varieties of English, for example, than standard British English. This is because standard British English distinguishes more vowel sounds, and thus some of the words listed below would not be pronounced identically by some speakers.

Homonym Groups
Here are 88 groups of three or more English homonyms, listed in alphabetical order.
adds ads adze
ade aid aide
air are e’er ere err heir
aisle I’ll isle
aweful awful offal
aye eye I
bailee bailey bailie
bailer bailor baler
baize bays beys
bald balled bawled
bases basis basses
bel bell belle
bight bite byte
boar boor bore
bole boll bowl
born borne bourn
buy by bye
call caul col
carat caret carrot karat
cay key quay
censer censor sensor
cent scent sent
cents scents sense
cere sear seer sere
chord cord cored
cite sight site
cited sighted sited
cites sights sites
dew do due
do doe dough
does doughs doze
ewe yew you
ewes use yews
fir fur furr
flew flu flue
for fore four
frees freeze frieze
gild gilled guild
gnu knew new
haut ho hoe
heigh hi hie high
hoard horde whored
holey holy wholly
idle idol idyl
knot naught not
knows noes nose
lays laze leis
lea lee li
lochs locks lox
mall maul moll
marc mark marque
meat meet mete
oar or ore
pair pare pear
palate pallet pallette
peak peek pique
pincer pincher pinscher
poor pore pour
praise prays preys
precedence precedents presidents
psi sigh xi
rain reign rein
raise rays raze
rapped rapt wrapped
read rede reed
rheumy roomie roomy
rho roe row
right rite wright write
road rode rowed
seas sees seize
sew so sol sow
slew slough slue
tea tee ti
teas tease tees
tern terne turn
their there they’re
to too two
toad toed towed
vain vane vein
vial vile viol
wail wale whale
ware wear where
way weigh whey
weald wheeled wield
weather wether whether
we’re were whir
whined wind wined
yore you’re your


January 18, 2010 at 8:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Homophones are words that have exactly the same sound (pronunciation) but different meanings and (usually) spelling.

For example, the following two words have the same sound, but different meanings and spelling:


In the next example, the two words have the same sound and spelling, but different meanings:

bear (the animal)
bear (to carry)

Usually homophones are in groups of two (our, hour), but very occasionally they can be in groups of three (to, too, two) or even four. If we take our “bear” example, we can add another word to the group”

bare (naked)
bear (the animal)
bear (to tolerate)

“Our bear cannot bear to be bare at any hour.”
The word homophone is made from two combining forms:
homo- (from the Greek word “homos”, meaning “same”
-phone (from the Greek word “phone”, meaning “voice” or “sound”
You will see many other English words using one or other of these combining forms.

The following list of 70 groups of homophones contains only the most common homophones, using relatively well-known words. These are headwords only. No inflections (such as third person singular “s” or noun plurals) are included.

air heir
aisle isle
ante- anti-
eye I
bare bear bear
be bee
brake break
buy by
cell sell
cent scent
cereal serial
coarse course
complement compliment
dam damn
dear deer
die dye
fair fare
fir fur
flour flower
for four
hair hare
heal heel
hear here
him hymn
hole whole
hour our
idle idol
in inn
knight night
knot not
know no
made maid
mail male
meat meet
morning mourning
none nun
oar or
one won
pair pear
peace piece
plain plane
poor pour
pray prey
principal principle
profit prophet
real reel
right write
root route
sail sale
sea see
seam seem
sight site
sew so sow
shore sure
sole soul
some sum
son sun
stair stare
stationary stationery
steal steel
suite sweet
tail tale
their there
to too two
toe tow
waist waste
wait weight
way weigh
weak week
wear where

NB: In a few cases, a third homophone, although possible, has not been included for simplicity. Different varieties and accents of English may produce variations in some of these pronunciations. The homophones listed here are based on British English.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.