homograph

[ hom-uh-graf, -grahf, hoh-muh- ]
/ ˈhɒm əˌgræf, -ˌgrɑf, ˈhoʊ mə- /

noun

a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not, as bear1 “to carry; support” and bear2 “animal” or lead1 “to conduct” and lead2 “metal.”

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Origin of homograph

First recorded in 1800–10; homo- + -graph

synonym study for homograph

See homonym.

OTHER WORDS FROM homograph

hom·o·graph·ic [hom-uh-graf-ik, hoh-muh-], /ˌhɒm əˈgræf ɪk, ˌhoʊ mə-/, adjective

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH homograph

homograph , homonym, homophone (see synonym study at homonym)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

HOMEWORK HELP

What is a homograph?

Homographs are words that have the same spelling but different meanings, whether they’re pronounced the same or not. Bass (the fish, rhymes with class) and bass (the instrument, rhymes with ace) are homographs. But so are bark (the sound a dog makes) and bark (the covering of a tree).

These two senses of bark can also be considered homophones. You can learn more about the difference in the next section.

There are many homographs in English, including many commonly used words, which can make things confusing, even for native speakers.

What’s the difference between homograph, homophone, and homonym?

One way to remember the difference between the words homograph, homophone, and homonym is to learn what their endings mean.

Homograph, homophone, and homonym all start with homo-, which means “same.”

The -graph in homograph means “written.” Homographs are words that are written the same—meaning they always have the same spelling—but have different meanings. Homographs can be pronounced the same or not. For example, tear (rhymes with ear) and tear (rhymes with air) are homographs. So are bear (the animal) and bear (the verb meaning “to carry”).

The -phone in homophone means “sound.” Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings, whether they’re spelled the same or not. There, their, and they’re are homophones. Bear (the animal) and bare (meaning “uncovered” or “empty”) are homophones. So are bear (the animal) and bear (the verb meaning “to carry”).

As you can see, the two senses of bear can be considered both homographs and homophones. When words are both homographs and homophones—meaning they have both the same spelling and the same pronunciation, but different meanings—they can be called homonyms.

The -nym in homonym means “name.” The word homonym can also be used as a synonym (there’s that -nym again) for either homophone or homograph.

Overall, knowing what the word homograph means is a lot less important than making sure you use homographs properly so people can understand what you mean.

Did you know ... ?

Some homographs have opposite or nearly opposite meanings. Such words can be called contranyms or Janus words. An example is the word cleave, which can mean “to adhere” or “to separate.”

What are real-life examples of homographs?

Homographs can be a source of confusion, especially when they’re used out of context.

 

What other words are related to homograph?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following word pairs are homographs?

A. air and heir
B. play and play
C. flu and flew
D. fly and flew

British Dictionary definitions for homograph

homograph
/ (ˈhɒməˌɡræf, -ˌɡrɑːf) /

noun

one of a group of words spelt in the same way but having different meaningsCompare heteronym

Derived forms of homograph

homographic, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012