Vocabulary 14 - Homonyms
Some words, such as LEAD, BEAR, FLEE and ALOUD, have a special place in the English language. These words come under the broad category of words called HOMONYMS. Homonyms have either the same spellings or the same pronunciation but different meanings.
The category of words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings (and may have different pronunciations) is called Homographs. Two examples of homographs are LEAD and BEAR:
LEAD can mean 'to guide' but is also a poisonous type metal.
A BEAR is a large mammal but BEAR can also mean 'carry' or 'tolerate'.
The category of words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings is called Homophones. Two examples of homophones are FLEA/FLEE and ALLOWED/ALOUD:
A FLEA is a parasitic insect which sucks blood from animals whilst FLEE means 'run away'.
ALLOWED means 'permitted' whilst ALOUD means 'audible'.
Some of the words have more than two meanings. Some of the words are homophones in one country whereas they are not homophones in another country (ROUT and ROUTE are pronounced the same in the USA for example, but differently in the UK).
Homographs are differentiated in written English by understanding the context in which the word is used. Homographs with different pronunciations can be easily identified in spoken English.
Homophones, on the other hand, may be easily identified in written English if their spellings are different, but can only be identified in spoken English by understanding the context in which the word is used while speaking.
Homonyms and the sub-categories, homophones and homographs, are words that make the language more interesting and versatile. Take the quiz that follows and enlarge your vocabulary by learning more homonyms.