Homographs Definition & Examples

Homographs in English: Definition & Examples

Hello reader,  permit me to show you that there are many words in English that appear to confuse the users of the language, especially for English as a Second Language Learners. These words have their distinct meanings, etymology (sources/origins) and orthography (spellings). Some of them look alike in terms of spelling, but they have different meanings; some sound the same in terms of pronunciation but they have different spellings while some are pronounced differently but they have same spellings. The post, Homographs in English: Definition & Examples, sheds more light.

Homographs in English: Definition & Examples

This post is dedicated to looking at words that belong to this category that are likely to confuse users of English language. These types of words belong to three distinct categories and they are: Homonyms, Homophones and Homographs. There is something common to these classifications and that is the word “Homo” which carries the idea of “being the same”. Words that belong to each of these categories have some things in common which could be in terms of spelling or pronunciation. Let us consider one of these categories of words: Homographs

Homograph – Definition

A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word but which has a different meaning and a different pronunciation. Many words like this exist in English. Let us consider some examples that will help you identify homographic words when you come across them. Another word that can be used in place of homograph is Heteronym, which also means words pronounced differently but spelt alike.

Homograph – Examples

All the considered words in pairs below have same spellings but different sounds/pronunciation and different meanings:

SOW

Sow – a sow is a noun used to refer to a female pig. It rhymes with the word, ‘how’. See these sentences:

  • The sow gave birth to fourteen piglets.
  • The farmer sold the fat sow.

Sow – this word is a verb which means to scatter seeds on the tilled ground or to simply plant seeds. It rhymes with the word, ‘low’. See these examples:

  • It is good to sow at the onset of the rains.
  • We could not sow on the hard soil.

ROW

Row (a noun that rhymes with ‘low’) – this is an arrangement of persons or things in a line or a line of seats.

  • There were four rows of seats in the hall.
  • He drew a table of three columns and five rows.

Row (a noun that rhymes with ‘how’) – this refers to a noisy quarrel or dispute.

  • The girls had a row with the cooks.
  • We could not sleep for the row next door.

BOW

Bow – this word, which is a verb, rhymes with ‘how’ and it means to bend the body or the head in greeting or as a sign of respect or obeisance. See these examples:

  • She likes to bow to her superiors.
  • The priest asked us to rise and bow.

Bow – this word rhymes with ‘low’ and it is a noun which means a looped knot or a decorative interlacing of ribbon or other fabrics, usually having two loops and two loose ends. It also means a weapon for shooting arrows, which consist of an arch of stretchy wood bent by a string tied at each end.

  • She likes to wear a bow on her hair.
  • The hunter shot the animal with a bow and arrow.

Read more on Homonyms and Homophones.

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