Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs/Heteronyms

These are semantic features in linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which sound alike or are spelled alike, but have different meanings. A more restrictive definition sees homonyms as words that are simultaneously homographs/heteronyms (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling)[1] – that is to say they have identical pronunciation and spelling, whilst maintaining different meanings. 

Homographs (literally “same writing”) are usually defined as words that share the same spelling, regardless of how they are pronounced.[note 1] If they are pronounced the same then they are also homophones (and homonyms) – for example, bark(the sound of a dog) and bark (the skin of a tree). If they are pronounced differently then they are also heteronyms – for example, bow (the front of a ship) and bow (a ranged weapon).

Homophones (literally “same sound”) are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled.[note 2] If they are spelled the same then they are also homographs (and homonyms); if they are spelled differently then they are also heterographs (literally “different writing”). Homographic examples include rose(flower) and rose (past tense of rise). Heterographic examples include totootwo, and theretheirthey’re. Due to their similar yet non-identical pronunciation in American English, ladder and latter do not qualify as homophones, but rather synophones.[9]

Heteronyms (literally “different name”) are the subset of homographs (words that share the same spelling) that have different pronunciations (and meanings).[note 3] Such words include desert (to abandon) and desert (arid region); tear (to rip) and tear (a drop of moisture formed in one eye); row (to argue or an argument) and row (as in to row a boat or a row of seats – a pair of homophones). Heteronyms are also sometimes called heterophone (literally “different sound”).


Homonym, Homograph and Homophone Riddles:



  1. What do you get when you throw a lot of books into the ocean?

   A title wave.      

   2. What has four wheels and flies?

 A garbage truck.

  3. Why couldn’t the bicycle stand up?

Because it was two tired

  4. What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?

A stick.

  5. Why did the man take his clock to the vet?

Because it had ticks.

  6. What did the mouse say to the other mouse when he tried to steal his cheese?

That’s nacho cheese.

  7. Which is faster, heat or cold?

Heat, because you can catch a cold.

  8. Why did the chicken go to jail?

Because he was using fowl language. 

  9. What has two legs but can’t walk?

A pair of pants.

  10. Why was the math book always worried?

Because it had so many problems.




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