Have you heard the story about the man who turned left at the stop light, but then turned right because he forgot to arm his house alarm? It’s quite amusing, isn’t it?
Words can be quite amusing too, don’t you think? Have you noticed that some words in the sentences above are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings? These words are known as homonyms. The term “homonym” comes from a Greek word meaning “having the same name.”
When you start thinking about words, you’ll realize that there are many words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. There are also many words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings.
There are specific terms for each of these types of words, and we’ll explain them further here. It might be confusing at first, but remember that just because two or more words sound the same or are spelled the same doesn’t mean they have the same meaning.
Words that are spelled the same but have different meanings are called homographs. Homographs can be divided into two groups based on whether they are pronounced the same.
Homographs that are pronounced the same are also called homophones (and they are also homonyms, which are words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings). Examples of these words were mentioned earlier: right (direction) and right (correct). Homographs that are pronounced differently are known as heteronyms. Examples of heteronyms include bow (to bend over) and bow (the hunting weapon).
Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. As mentioned before, homophones that are spelled the same are also homographs (and homonyms). If they are spelled differently, they are called heterographs. Examples of heterographs include to, too, and two. It’s important to be careful with heterographs. Modern technology, such as spelling and grammar checkers, might not always catch when you use a heteronym incorrectly, because you might have spelled the wrong word correctly!
And just to make things even more interesting, did you know that there are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings when capitalized? These words are called capitonyms. Examples of capitonyms include march (a way of walking) and March (the month).
You may have noticed that people often get these different terms confused easily. People often refer to pairs of words as homonyms when they are actually just homographs or homophones. Remember: homonyms are both homographs (spelled the same) and homophones (pronounced the same).
Give It a Try
Are you ready to have more fun with words? Enlist the help of a friend or family member and try out the following activities:
I’m done. Too many people ate bananas for breakfast!
If you’re good at codes, you probably figured out that the hidden message was 1-2-8-4. Maybe that’s the combination for a secret locker! Here’s where those numbers were hidden:
I’m done. Too many people ate bananas for breakfast.
Do you see how heterographs like “too,” “ate,” and “for” were used? Can you create your own challenging code? Give it a shot and then challenge your friends and family members to crack the code!
- Take a look at the enjoyable Word Confusion game online to assist Regan the Vegan in making a fresh salad. Your task is simply to select the correct word to complete each sentence!
- If you’re interested in exploring a vast collection of homonyms, visit the Homonym Word Bank online. We bet you never realized there were so many homonyms! How many homonyms from the list were you already familiar with? How many were new to you? Do you know any homonyms that are not included in the Homonym Word Bank? If you do, share them on Facebook to let all your Wonder Friends know!
- Were you aware that spies have the ability to use words to create intricate mathematical codes that can convey information such as phone and bank account numbers? It’s true! Examine the following sentence and see if you can discover the hidden mathematical message: