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From Your Dictionary

Homographs, Homophones, and Homonyms

It’s easy to confuse homographs with homophones and homonyms, but if you think about each word, they make more sense.

Homo-, as you know, means “same.” But the end of each word tells us what is the same.

  • Homograph – “Graph” has to do with writing or drawing. When you think about a graph, you envision a picture. If you read graphic novels, you know they have pictures. Someone drew them. So “homograph” means “same picture” or “same writing.” Homographs are written (spelled) the same.
  • Homophone – “Phone” has to do with sound. When you talk on the telephone, you hear the other person’s voice. When people in the 1800s used a gramophone, they were listening to music. And phonology is the study of a language’s sounds. So “homophone” means “same sound.” Homophones are pronounced the same.
  • Homonym – “Nym” means “name.” Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder have the same first name, but they clearly are different people. It’s the same with homonyms. They’re spelled the same (homographs) and pronounced the same (homophones), but they have different meanings. “Bow,” for example, means both “to bend at the waist” and “the front of a boat.”

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