The Free Dictionary Blog > Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs: How to tell the difference > Homographs
What is a homograph?
A homograph is one of two or more words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation. 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" (line, pronounced rō), and "row" (fight, pronounced rou), as well as "sewer" (conduit for waste, pronounced so̅o̅′ər), and "sewer" (person who sews, pronounced sō′ər).
Here are some more examples of homographs:
wind (an air current or to twist)
spring (the season or to bounce)
fit (a tantrum or to match)
might (perhaps or power)
bear (the animal or to endure)
fair (pleasing in appearance or a market)
pet (to stroke or a domesticated animal)
The difference between homographs, homophones, and homonyms
The terms "homonym," "homophone," and "homograph" designate words that are identical to other words in spelling or pronunciation, or both, while differing from them in meaning and usually in origin.
Homographs are always spelled the same, so remember the ending "-graph," which is a Greek root meaning "writing."
Homophones are words that sound alike, whether or not they are spelled differently. Homophones always sound alike, so remember the ending "-phone," which is a Greek root meaning "sound."
Homonyms are, in the strictest sense, both homophones and homographs, alike in spelling and pronunciation, such as the two meanings of "bear."
The term "homonym," however, is used more frequently than "homophone," a technical term, when referring to words with the same pronunciation without regard to spelling. "Homonym" is also used as a synonym of “homograph." Thus, "homonym" has taken on a broader scope than either of the other two terms and is often the term of choice in a nontechnical context.
Linguist Neil Whitman suggests looking at the three terms as a Venn Diagram: "One circle contains homophones; the other circle contains homographs; and the football in the middle contains homonyms."
What are your favorite homographs?
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