homonymy

[ huh-mon-uh-mee, hoh- ]
/ həˈmɒn ə mi, hoʊ- /

noun

the relationship between homonyms, or words that are spelled or pronounced in the same way: homonymy in English.
the state of having the same name or designation: Homonymy between species can cause major confusion in taxonomy.

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Origin of homonymy

First recorded in 1545–55; <Late Latin homōnymia, from Greek homōnymía, equivalent to homṓnym(os) homonymous + -ia -y3
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does homonymy mean?

Homonymy is the relationship between words that are homonyms—words that have different meanings but are pronounced the same or spelled the same or both.

It can also refer to the state of being homonyms.

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.

The related adjective homonymous describes words that are homonyms.

Example: Homonymy between words that are spelled the same is often more obvious than homonymy between words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently.

Where does homonymy come from?

The first records of the word homonymy come from around 1550. It is a combination of homo-, meaning “same,” -nym, meaning “name,” and -y, which is used to form abstract nouns. Similarly, the relationship between synonyms (or the state of being synonyms) can be called synonymy.

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.

So homonymy can involve words that are spelled the same, pronounced the same, or both.

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. In this context, homonymy refers to the state of having the same name or designation.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to homonymy?

What are some synonyms for homonymy?

What are some words that share a root or word element with homonymy

What are some words that often get used in discussing homonymy?

How is homonymy used in real life?

It is much more common to say two words are homonyms than to describe them as being in a state of homonymy.

 

 

Try using homonymy!

Which of the following word pairs could be considered to exhibit homonymy?

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