Vocabulary 13 - Homographs
We have all heard of hours, minutes and seconds. The first thing that comes to mind when we think of these words is time because we are so used to telling the time using these words. But look at these sentences:
‘I enjoyed my HOUR of glory’
‘He came SECOND in the running race’
‘I could see MINUTE particles floating on the surface of the water.’
What do these sentences tell us? There seem to be meanings for the words in capitals that are not related to the measurements of time they represent. In the first sentence, the HOUR is used for an interval of time that is much less than or more than 60 minutes. In the second sentence, SECOND is the position a runner finished in a race and in the third sentence, MINUTE refers to the smallness of a particle. In these three examples, hour, minute
are seen to be HOMOGRAPHS.
A homograph is a word that has the same spelling but different meanings. A homograph may have the same pronunciation or different pronunciations. For example, SECOND is pronounced the same way even when it has different meanings. MINUTE, on the other hand, is pronounced in one way when it is used in relation to time (MINIT) and in another way when it is used in relation to size (MYNEWT).
Homographs with different pronunciations are easily identified in spoken English but in written English you need to understand the context in which the word is used in order to understand its meaning.
Homographs are necessary words in anyone’s vocabulary and the more homographs you know the better you will be able to communicate. Take the quiz that follows and learn some more homographs.