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The definition of the word is written in the ingress and in the definition. Isn’t one time enough? Eikern 23:47, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Debate over the correct name[edit]

The debate over the correct name: Homonyms vs Homophones: (dead link) -- Ellmist Monday, November 25th, 2002

The discussion is not pointless at all. And the definitions as of homonymes, -phones, and -graphes as they are now seem obscure and unreasonable to me. I suggest the following classification: Homonymes: Words with different meaning but identical in writing or pronunciation; Homophones: Words which are pronounced the same; Homographs: Words which are written the same.

I agree with this classification. It seems to be the accepted definition. See The article in some places suggested that homonyms were always both; I tried to change that. JeremyStein 17:12, 3 August 2005 (UTC)
This topic is a complete rat's nest... practically every source seems to say something slightly different. I have stuck with the above definition as it seems to be the most popular, but tried to clarify further and also alert readers to the fact that these different interpretations are out there. Matt 16:59, 6 December 2005 (UTC).

I also found the discussion of the confusion useful and hence appropriate. It also serves to reinforce understanding of what the underlying variables involved are; useful if one's morning coffee hasn't kicked in yet. In fact, it seems a model clearing up of potential confusion; thanks for the good work...--FurnaldHall (talk) 16:29, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

Distinguishing the concepts is interesting and useful. However in English as it is used by most speakers, and taught in general education, a homophone IS a homonym, and every major dictionary of the English language, American or British, agrees. (talk) 04:05, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

You're right, The definition in this article is just plain wrong. The correct definition is:
Homonym. n. 1. a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air
Don't take my word for it, check your favorite dictionary NCdave (talk) 08:38, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

Where should I factor in the following observation?[edit]

I've seen a number of instances where non-native speakers (particularly Hindi-speaking people) use the spelling "their" for "there". There may be similar observations of L1 influence (native tongue influence) coupling with confusion with homophones that are not homographs. Where do we mention these (if at all this is verifiable)? -- Sundar 06:26, Mar 18, 2005 (UTC)

This is hardly limited to non-native speakers. Correct spelling of homophones is something that has to be taught, and not everyone learns it well. One sees it distressingly often in people who have been speaking English all their lives. Csernica 19:58, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

It doesn't distress me at all. People make mistakes. Even people who understand perfectly the various meanings of homophones. We also understand that the basketball is supposed to go in the hoop, not next to it. It is no more distressing than English not being a phonetic language. Spelling is largely an automatism; no one who writes fluidly slows down to verify their spelling and every author makes mistakes that they themselves are capable of easily correcting.

signed, Proof Reader (talk) 04:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

It distresses me. It gives me heartburn when people write "there" in place of "their" or "they're." Why don't they just add, "P.S., I'm an idiot" to everything they write? The pervasiveness of this sort of elementary error is a colossal indictment of public education in America. NCdave (talk) 08:45, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
One might say: "There trolling they're friends their."

Reduced "to"[edit]

It is too dialectical. Nohat, it may be reduced when you speak naturally, but it sure isn't when I speak naturally. Csernica 19:55, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

It is not dialectical. There are no dialects that have distinct rules for the reduction of function words. Sociolects, perhaps, with reduction extremely mildly marked in the very highest acrolect. And it's certainly the case that the amount of reduction is in free variation, depending on speed of speech or social situation, but there are no dialects that differ on whether or not to ever takes a reduced form. There is no dialect where "to" always has a full vowel. Nohat 07:30, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

I was talking about the example at hand, where I can detect in my own speech a much shortened vowel there but not a schwa. You said before that the vowel in this case is reduced and that the reduction is not dialectical. Perhaps it's just a bad example. TCC (talk) (contribs) 08:49, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

The problem is that English education causes people to lose the ability to speak naturally while at the same time being aware of their speech. For many people, when they think about the words, the spelling will influence the pronunciation in such a way that the way they pronounce it is inherently unnatural. In other words, when you're thinking about the sounds of the words you're saying (linguists call this "careful speech"), then the sounds actually change and the result is very different from what is called "normal speech". In normal speech, when to is an ordinary function word, not stressed or used contrastively, then it is always pronounced with schwa unless it comes before a vowel or at the end of the sentence. Here it is not used to contrast with any other words in the sentence, it comes before a consonant, and is not sentence final, so it is pronounced with schwa. If you are pronouncing it with a full vowel, you are probably speaking with "careful speech" and giving the word sentence stress or contrastive stress: "to much to do in two days". However, the unmarked reading for the sentence is to not give any stress at all to the word "to". This is not a dialectical variation, but simply an idiosyncrasy that results from thinking about what you're saying. Nohat 09:31, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

Cleave is not a heteronym[edit]

I removed the second sentence from:

The National Puzzlers' League calls homographs heteronyms. This term is particularly appropriate where the homograph, such as cleave, has two opposite meanings, "to split" and "to cling close".

Heteronyms are homographs that are not also homophones. Both meanings of cleave are spelledpronounced the same way, thus it is not an appropriate example. JeremyStein 18:23, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

I think you meant to point out that both meanings are pronounced the same way? The two different meanings of "close" are a better example, perhaps. TCC (talk) (contribs) 01:55, 4 August 2005 (UTC)
Yes, thank you. The two meanings of "close" would be a good example of a heteronym, but they aren't antonyms, so I still see no use for that sentence. JeremyStein 14:46, 4 August 2005 (UTC)
Cleave is both a homonym and an auto-antonym (q.v.) --Jmptdc 14:30, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

s". ==

< >:

"Homonyms - Due Ewe No Witch Whirred Qualifies".

Hopiakuta 23:40, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Another intro example[edit]

Wouldn't it be better to have a "two, too, to" example in the intro? From the existing intro, it's not clear to me that "homonym" includes same-sound-different-spelling groups, as I don't think of those as the "same word". Thanks, William Pietri 16:28, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Bihomonyms, trihomonyms and polyhomonyms[edit]

You have just invented these, haven't you? We cannot do our own research nor can we coin new words in Wikipedia. We can only cite what we find what has been created elsewhere. See Wikipedia: What wikipedia is not. Dieter Simon 01:11, 5 April 2007 (UTC)

Please do not keep adding your item about bihomonyms, trihomonyms and polyhomonyms, without adding also suitable source materials and citations, otherwise we must assume these are your own inventions and we will regard them to be vandalism, and will automatically remove them. Dieter Simon 23:34, 7 April 2007 (UTC)


Should auto-antonym be added to the list of Variants and sub-types? Auto-antonyms are a particularly provocative and entertaining sub-type of homograph/homophone. Regrettably, adding this sub-type here would necessitate inventing an awkward noun, auto-antonymy. At the very least, shouldn't there be a cross-reference to the Wiki entry on auto-antonym? 4granite 23:23, 28 April 2007 (UTC)


a river bank, a savings bank, a bank of switches, and a bank shot in pool

In these four contexts, the word bank, though it possesses various meanings, do all derive from the same origin. A bank was a variant of a bench (the original Italian word banco preserves both meanings): the risen side of a river is a bank (=bench) in that it can be stood or rested upon; moneylenders and financiers in Italy sat at a banco; an array of switches is set out on a board (=table) or bank (=bench); and a bank shot is one where the ball banks (hits off) the cushion (to bank: to lean or diverge, as if hitting or sliding off a bench). Nuttyskin (talk) 17:40, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

different meanings of fluke have different etymologies?[edit]

what is the evidence or source of this?

This is one of those occasions where any good dictionary will help you out. This not a matter of unsusbstantiated facts taken out of thin air, the various forms of "fluke" may be checked at a moment's notice. Apart from the disambiguation article "fluke" which gives you umpteen different homonyms of it, there is also the Wiktionary entry for it. Trying to cite the facts from one dictionary would choose one out of many dictionaries that would do equally well. Dieter Simon 00:23, 27 June 2007 (UTC)
Most dictionaries refer to the Anglo-Saxon etymology of 'floc' meaning plaice and refer to the shape. How does your reminding me that there are many modern forms of the word count as evidence that they have separate etymologies? Glennh70 13:18, 2 July 2007 (UTC)
I thought you were referring to the disambiguation page for "fluke", where you have the various homographs of "fluke", none of which mentions its derivation or etymology. Since no statement or claim was made as to each their etymologies, they would thus not need having their source substantiated, I really am not sure what you mean here. A disambiguation does not need to do cite its sources, because it can be followed to each article by its links. You would need to look at each article to find that out. Dieter Simon 00:57, 3 July 2007 (UTC)
Oops, I was looking at the wrong article, wasn't I? I was looking at the disambiguating article for fluke, sorry. I don't what made me do that.
However, as for your statement that most etymologies state that "fluke" originates with 'floc', take alook at [1].
So, it doesn't seem quite as straightforward as you think. There are then at least three different versions quoted by one particular source alone. In that case, the original statement in the article "homonym" isn't that far off the mark. Dieter Simon 10:27, 3 July 2007 (UTC)

desert - dessert[edit]

"Homographic examples include desert (to abandon) and dessert (a thing deserved)." Aren't they homophones? Hardy and Tiny 07:57, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

and, for that matter, aren't those words NOT a homographic example, considering they are NOT spelled the same?FangsFirst (talk) 15:14, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
Neither homographs nor homophones, since both spelling and pronunciation differ.

Table contradictions[edit]

The table that lists the sameness and difference of the spelling, sound and meaning does not match the definitions in the near-by writing, specifically, the table states that homonyms are spelled differently, while the definition of a homonym states that it is both spelled and sound the same but with different meanings. Oliana (talk) 23:01, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

Yes, Oliana, you have noticed our 'deliberate mistake'. Have reverted "homonym". Dieter Simon (talk) 23:30, 1 June 2009 (UTC)

move to "Homonymy"?[edit]

The article is about Homonymy in general, so shouldn't it be moved to "Homonymy"? "Homonym", as a single instance, doesn't seem as encycopedic for an article title? Who agrees in this instance? (talk) 04:07, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Yet the first reference work I consulted, "The Oxford Companion to the English Language", editor Tom McArther, 1992, gives Homonym and not Homonymy with reference to the actual word rather than the concept ("one of two or more words that are identical in sound or spelling but different in meaning"). It is not so much the "single instance", as you call it, but whether you are highlighting the word or not. Dieter Simon (talk) 22:19, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

About / aboot[edit]

Why are "about" and "aboot" listed in the Venn diagram? Neither spelling nor pronunciation are the same, at least not in British English. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:09, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

This is in the sector for "same meaning, same spelling, different pronunciation". My guess is that the text about / "aboot" is trying to say that the word about (spelled about) can be pronounced in two different ways, and that "aboot" is meant to indicate the alternative pronunciation. I agree it's confusing, and I don't think it's a very good example. "aboot" is a fairly limited dialect/regional pronunciation in my experience. It's also sometimes spelled "aboot", which confuses things even more. From a BrE perspective, the two pronunciations of "either" (or "neither") seem like a better example, but I'm not sure how well they internationalise. (talk) 03:38, 8 January 2010 (UTC).

If we're talking about the Venn diagram, the use of the example "desert/desert" is confusing at best. I believe in British English the meal is spelt "dessert" and the descriptor of a place with extreme conditions is spelt "desert". "bow/bow" is a better example, I think (meaning something you tie with string, and the action). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:30, 16 January 2010 (UTC)

Huh? The spelling of "dessert" is irrelevant. The two words being compared, as is clearly stated, are "desert (leave)" and "desert (arid region)". Same spelling, different pronunciation, different meaning. (talk) 21:17, 1 March 2010 (UTC).
This is not a good example because one could argue that the name for a waterless region is derived from the fact that it is a region that is deserted i.e. everything has left.

Bow ad nauseam[edit]

The definitions "bow: a device used to play a violin" and "bow: a weapon used to shoot arrows" are clearly the same meaning: a string attached to a bent stick. These do not pass the test of "spelled and sound the same but mean different things." Furthermore the string is not part of the "bow" --- it has it's own word "bowstring". In this manner the use of "bow" as in "bow legged" is also exactly the same --- long and curved --- as those two prior meanings. This reasoning can also be applied to "bow" meaning the prow of a boat and "bow" meaning to "curve ones body downwards," even though that is generally pronounced differently. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:47, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

The text talks about "bow" also having "several related but distinct meanings" (my italics), and implies that the list is knowingly including "polysemous" meanings such as the ones you have pointed out. (talk) 14:02, 14 September 2010 (UTC)


first my name is mohamed iam somali if i participate this discussion iam very weakable person according to speaking english i want to give me ahelpfull hand as to speahk the language fluently donot surprise me iam not talker good by. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:14, 23 December 2010 (UTC)


Couldn't "Polish" capitalized still mean to make shiny when occurring at the beginning of a sentence? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:27, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Yes, in the following sentence, for xample. "Polish keeps the table shiny". Why, is there a query? Dieter Simon (talk) 23:16, 12 January 2011 (UTC)

Wikitable is covering text[edit]

Wikitable is covering part of the text, and seems to have done so for some time. Might this have something to do with my using Vector (default)? Maybe other skins might be perfectly OK. Dieter Simon (talk) 01:28, 13 January 2011 (UTC)

How many homonyms in English?[edit]

Does anybody know how many of these there are? Hundreds? Thousands? It would be an interesting encyclopedic fact to include here if it could be sourced. What about other languages? Are we unlucky, or is English much like most other languages in this respect? Another thought for expansion if the research exists. If not, is this a PhD idea for someone? --Nigelj (talk) 20:24, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Aren't row (propel with oars) and row (argument) true homonyms?[edit]

I don't think this makes sense: "In non-technical contexts, the term "homonym" may be used (somewhat confusingly) to refer to words that are either homographs or homophones.[1] In this looser sense, the words row (propel with oars) and row (argument) are considered homonyms".

Aren't row and row true homonyms? Why is it in a "looser sense." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:21, 3 August 2011 (UTC)

Because they are pronounced differently. (talk) 02:35, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
I think the example is unclear, since the two words are clearly homographs (thus making them homonyms in the looser sense) but some-one reading this might think that they are pronounced the same, though they aren't (at least in American English, which is what is mentioned in the comparison). Let's get a better example.Kdammers (talk) 03:30, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

Deletion of external links[edit]

I made the executive decision to get rid of the article's two outside links: one to a for-profit educational materials company's sales page, which had no information on the subject at hand; the other to the Online Etymology Dictionary entry for "fluke." One is blatant advertising, the other unhelpful. Treeemont (talk) 14:56, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

Bow is considered a Heteronym in the Heteronyms Wiki, but in this article it is considered a Homonym. So, what should it be..? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:14, 24 November 2012 (UTC)

Technical vs common definition[edit]

This article opens with the technical linguistic definition of "same spelling and same pronunciation", explaining this at length before giving the commonplace definition of "same spelling or same pronunciation". Should the article open with the technical or the common definition? (I've had to revert it a few times when passing editors have mistakenly corrected the first paragraph to say what the second is already saying.) --McGeddon (talk) 11:55, 24 May 2013 (UTC)

Venn diagram may not be correct[edit]

Why Homophone contain Homonym in the diagram? Homophone are same sound, different spelling and different meaning and homonym have same spelling, same sound and different meaning — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:32, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Looks like you didn't bother to read the article, which clearly says that homophones have the same pronunciation but they don't have to have different spellings. It also clearly says that if homophones are spelled the same way, they are also homographs (and homonyms). (And homonyms have both the same spelling and pronunciation only in the strictest sense of the term.) --Espoo (talk) 23:17, 15 June 2014 (UTC)


The English WP doesn't have an article on paronym, not even a redirect, even though there are WP articles in most other major languages! The article paronymic attraction says it's a quasi-homonym, often or always a replacement of an unfamiliar with a familiar word, i.e. usually of different origin. Wiktionary says it's a semantic, not linguistic, term and says it's "a word derived from the same root, or with the same sound, as another word", so apparently either cognate or not and when it's not a cognate (only then?) similar sounding. Oxford, American Heritage, Collins, and Merriam Webster say it's the same thing as a cognate, some saying it can or must have a similar meaning. --Espoo (talk) 18:32, 15 June 2014 (UTC)

I've done some searching and discovered that

  • paronymy is apparently insufficiently researched in linguistics (second footnote in German WP) and
  • all the major English dictionaries define it incorrectly.

As explained in R. R. K. Hartmann and Gregory James, Dictionary of Lexicography. Routledge, 1998, "soundalike" is an informal term for "paronym" and paronomy is the relationship between two or more words partly identical in form and/or meaning, which may cause confusion in reception or production. In the narrow sense the term paronymy refers to 'soundalikes' (cognate near-homophones such as affect/effect or feminine/feminist), but in the wider sense it covers any 'lookalike' or 'meanalike' confusable words."

Similarly, Akhmanova's Dictionary of Linguistic Terms defines paronyms as words which as a result of similarity (likeness) in sound and partial coincidence of their morphemic composition, might be incorrectly used in speech.

See also : One special type of partial synonym is called a paronym. Paronyms are words with associated meanings which also have great similarities in form: proscribe/ prescribe, industrial/ industrious, except/accept, affect/effect. Many errors in speech and writing are due to mixups involving paronyms.

So Oxford, American Heritage, Collins, Merriam Webster, and Random House are all wrong in saying paronyms have to be cognates and in including such pairs as wise/wisdom which are never confused. (Interestingly wise/wisdom is the same, obviously plagiarized example in both Oxford and Random.)

On the other hand A. Kukulska-Hulme, Language and Communication. Oxford Univ. Press, 1999 says: In more traditional linguistic terminology, a confusing word that is derived from another, or has the same root, is known as a paronym.

--Espoo (talk) 22:54, 15 June 2014 (UTC)

It is unlikely for all the dictionaries to make the same mistake. Isn’t it more probable that paronym in English really means a cognate within the same language, rather than a soundalike? — TAKASUGI Shinji (talk) 10:00, 21 October 2014 (UTC)

More reference needed?[edit]

Good explanation and clear diagram in clarifying homonym, homographs, and homophones. I wonder if there would be more explanation on the importance of these terms related to linguistics. In some dictionaries, it seems that the line between these three terms are still obscure, would be it clearer in the ideas of these terms/usages by adding references from the dictionaries and summarizing their definitions as uniting all the definitions, in order to make it super clear. What about its relationship to antonym, paronym, synonym?--Fannyfish0224 (talk) 11:43, 18 September 2014 (UTC)


A wraith with a wreath has a fit of wrath during his reign in rain. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:13, 7 November 2015 (UTC)


Considering that everything in this article is relevant and referenced reliably, I can't offer any critiques besides possibly expanding the reference list. However, the article is concise and provides sufficient references for key information regarding this linguistic concept. All linked citations appear to be neutral, legitimate sources (ex: Cambridge, Tufts, and Western Washington University,) and are in working order. The homograph/homophone venn diagram PNG is sourced from Wikimedia Commons author Will Heltsley. Upon review of Heltsley, an education blogger and Utah teacher, his diagram is nice visual addition to the 'Related Terms' section which outlines similar linguistic concepts. Overall this article proves to be clear, reliable and up to date.

Kcoscia (talk) 00:47, 22 February 2017 (UTC)