homonym

[ hom-uh-nim ]
/ ˈhɒm ə nɪm /

noun

Phonetics. a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air; a homophone (def. 1).
a word that is both a homophone and a homograph, that is, exactly the same as another in sound and spelling but different in meaning, as chase “to pursue” and chase “to ornament metal.”
(loosely) a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not, as bear “to carry; support” and bear “animal” or lead “to conduct” and lead “metal;” a homograph.
Obsolete. a namesake.
Biology. a name given to a species or genus that has already been assigned to a different species or genus and that is therefore rejected.

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Origin of homonym

First recorded in 1635–45; from Latin homōnymum, from Greek homṓnymon, neuter of homṓnymos homonymous

synonym study for homonym

1-3. Three similar terms— homophone, homograph, and homonym —designate words that are identical in pronunciation, spelling, or both, while differing in meaning and usually in origin.
Homophones (“same” + “sound”) are different words that sound alike, whether or not they are spelled alike. Thus pair “two of a kind,” pare “cut off,” and pear, the fruit, are homophones because they sound exactly the same, even though each is spelled differently. But bear “carry or support” and bear, the animal, are homophones that not only sound alike but are also spelled alike.
Homographs (“same” + “writing”) are different words that are spelled the same but may or may not have the same pronunciation. The homographs sound “noise,” sound “healthy,” and sound, “a body of water,” for example, are spelled and pronounced the same way. However, words with the same spelling but different pronunciations are also homographs. Familiar examples are the pairs row [roh] /roʊ/ “line” and row [rou] /raʊ/ “fight” as well as sewer [soo-er] /ˈsu ər/ “conduit for waste” and sewer [soh-er] /ˈsoʊ ər/ “person who sews.” Their identical spellings define them as homographs no matter how they are said.
The word homonyms (“same” + “names”) is, strictly speaking, either a synonym for homophones or a name for words that are at once homophones and homographs —alike in both spelling and pronunciation—such as the two words spelled b-e-a-r and the three spelled s-o-u-n-d. As a practical matter, however, the terms homophone, homograph, and homonym are often distinguished from one another by the contexts in which they are found. Homophone and homograph —the first focused on sound and the second on spelling—appear primarily in technical or academic writing, where fine distinctions are important. The more familiar word homonym, heard in classrooms from early grades on, has become an all-inclusive term that describes not only words that are both homophonic and homographic, but words that are either one or the other. In common parlance, then, words that sound alike, look alike, or both, can be called homonyms.

OTHER WORDS FROM homonym

hom·o·nym·ic, adjectivehom·o·nym·i·ty, noun

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH homonym

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

HOMEWORK HELP

What is a homonym?

A homonym is a word that has a different meaning than another word but is pronounced the same or spelled the same or both.

The word homonym can be used as a synonym for both homophone and homograph. It can also be used to refer to words that are both homophones and homographs.

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. But so are bark (the sound a dog makes) and bark (the covering of a tree).

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).

As you can see, the two senses of bark can be considered both homographs and homophones. The word homonym can also be used to refer to such words—meaning they have both the same spelling and the same pronunciation, but different meanings.

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

Why are homonyms important?

Overall, knowing what the word homonym means is a lot less important than making sure you use homonyms properly so people can understand what you mean. But knowing the difference between homographs, homophones, and homonyms can help. One way to remember the difference 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.

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.

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

The word homonym is typically used in a much looser way than homophone and homograph—it can refer to a word that is either a homophone or a homograph or both.

Did you know ... ?

In biology, the word homonym is used in a more specific way to refer to a name for a species or genus that should be unique but has been used for two or more different organisms.

What are real-life examples of homonyms?

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

What other words are related to homonym?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following word pairs could be considered homonyms?

A. air and heir
B. bare and bear
C. bear and bear
D. all of the above

Example sentences from the Web for homonym

British Dictionary definitions for homonym

homonym
/ (ˈhɒmənɪm) /

noun

one of a group of words pronounced or spelt in the same way but having different meaningsCompare homograph, homophone
a person with the same name as another
biology a name for a species or genus that should be unique but has been used for two or more different organisms

Derived forms of homonym

homonymic or homonymous, adjectivehomonymity or homonymy, noun

Word Origin for homonym

C17: from Latin homōnymum, from Greek homōnumon, from homōnumos of the same name; see homo-, -onym
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