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.
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: Homonyms
A homonym is a word that has the same spelling and the same pronunciation as another word but which has a meaning different from it. In other words, a way to identify a homonym is to look out for words with the same spellings and same pronunciation but which usually have different meanings. Let us see some examples:
Bill – this is a noun that means “money owed for goods or services supplied or a written or printed account or statement of money owed”. It also means a printed or written advertisement for a programme, event, concert, show, etc. Look at these sentences:
- He requested his bill from the waiter.
- We distributed the handbills for the concert.
Bill – this is also a noun that means the beak of a bird, that is, the projecting jaws of a bird, covered with a horny sheath. E. g.
- The cormorant has a hooked bill.
- The pelican picked the fish with its large bill.
Fair – this is an adjective that means attractive or beautiful to look at, light in colour. It also means just, impartial, free from discrimination or dishonesty. E. g.
- She is a fair woman.
- It is a fair weather.
- The decision of the judge was fair enough.
Fair – in this regard, the word fair, which is a noun, means a travelling entertainment with sideshows, rides, etc. that visits different places from time to time. It also means an exhibition, a regular assembly at a specific place for the sale of goods, etc.
- I got the journal at the university book fair.
- The child won big balloons at the fair.
Pulse – a pulse, in this context is the “the rhythmic contraction and expansion of an artery at each beat of the heart, often discernible to the touch at points such as the wrists”. E. g.
- He has a weak pulse
- The doctor could not get the baby’s pulse.
Pulse – Pulse, in this other sense, means “the edible seeds of any of several leguminous plants, such as peas, beans, lentils, clover, alfalfa, etc.
- To stay healthy, one must eat food made with pulses.
More Examples of Homonyms
There are very many examples of homonyms in the English language. Can you find out more on your own and possibly with the aid of a dictionary? See more examples provided for you and endeavour to use them in sentences of your own:
- Row (noun) – an arrangement of persons or things in a line or a line of seats
- Row (verb) – to propel or steer a boat by means of oars
- Bear (noun) – a large omnivorous animal with a large head, a long shaggy coat, and strong claws
- Bear (verb) – tolerate or endure, support or hold up, hold something in one’s mind or feelings
- Rear – to care for and raise children, breed animals, erect a monument or building
- Rear – the position at the back, back or hind part.
- Rare – uncommon, unusual, scarce and not widely known
- Rare – meat, especially beef, that is cooked very lightly
- Low (noun) – the sound utter by cattle
- Low – (adjective) – having little value or quality, containing a small amount, having a small distance from base to top, situated short distance above the ground or sea level