In basic terms, homonyms (Homos = same; Onymas = names) are words that sound alike but have different meanings. The homonyms in the examples below are words that sound alike but are spelled differently (son vs. sun). The examples in the Homographs section cover those words that sound the same and are spelled the same but have different meanings (riddle vs. riddle). Personally, I prefer the term homophone (Homo = same; Phone = sound) to describe those words that sound alike but are spelled differently. It seems rather odd that differently spelled words (knight vs. night) are homonyms (same names) since they don’t have the same name; they have the same sound. What do you think? Be sure to scroll down to view the entire list. If you wish, send in your own examples of homonyms to be displayed. Don’t forget to tell me your first name or screen name and age.
Waist vs. Waste
Waist (the body part above the pelvis and below the ribs as in, Through diet and exercise, Sam reduced the amount of fat around his waist) vs. Waste (to use needlessly; misspent as in, His talents are wasted as a secretary; to use something inefficiently as in, Don’t waste your time dwelling on what could have been. It is time to move forward; garbage, as in, I was saddened to see all the waste floating in the once pristine lake).
Waiver vs. Waver
Waiver (to release from legal obligation as in, The stuntman had to sign a waiver before he was allowed to perform his stunts) vs. Waver (to become unsteady as in, The line of troops began to waver during combat, but were able to hold their ground and vanquish the enemy; to show uncertainty as in, After listening to the arguments, Jane wavered between which one was most credible).
See the “Mnemonics” to help you remember when to use Waver.
Metal vs. Mettle
Metal (a class of mineral substances such as copper, gold, iron, etc. which are hard and fusible as in, Stop swinging that metal rod. Someone could get hurt) vs. Mettle (strength of character as in, This trivia game is full of twist and turns sure to challenge your intellect and test your mettle).
Dual vs. Duel
Dual (composed of two parts as in, This car comes equipped with dual airbags, meaning one airbag for the driver and one for the passenger) vs. Duel (combat between two people as in, I challenge you to a duel to settle this matter once and for all).
Accede vs. Exceed
Accede (to take office as in, She acceded to the presidency of her country three years ago; to agree as in, It is my hope that you accede to my request) vs. Exceed (to be greater than as in, It is against the law to exceed the speed limit).
Through vs. Threw
Through (entering from one end and coming out the other as in, The sun’s rays passed through the window) vs. Threw (to send with some force as in, She threw the baseball so hard it stung the catcher’s hand).
Here’s an “all in one” sentence: Sam threw the ball through Mrs. Fields' window.
Flew vs. Flu vs. Flue
Flew (to travel via air as in, The bird flew gracefully through the air) vs. Flu (a virus which causes fever, muscle soreness, etc. as in, Scientists are working feverishly to develop a vaccine for this new strain of flu) vs. Flue (a smoke duct as in, The house is quite smoky. Are you sure that the flue is open?).
Stationery vs. Stationary
Stationery (paper, envelopes, etc. as in, You can purchase various kinds of stationery from this art supplies store) vs. Stationary (not moving or immovable as in, Onlookers were curious as to why the plane was stationary on the runway).
Check out the “Mnemonics” section to see the rhyme I constructed to help you remember the difference between the two words.
Hair vs. Hare
Hair (fine strands that grow out of people’s skin as in, If you are bald, then you don’t have any hair on your head) vs. Hare (an animal like a rabbit but a bit larger as in, Who can forget the classic fable, The Tortoise and the Hare; or The child ran after the hare as it hopped along the field).
For vs. Fore vs. Four
For (in favor of as in, We’re all for it; paying the consequences as in, He was ticketed for double parking) vs. Fore (situated in the front or toward the front as in, the fore (bow) and aft (stern) of a ship—front and back) vs. Four (numeral 4 as in, Cows have four stomachs, the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum).
Fore is also used in golf to warn people/golfers that a person is about to hit a golf ball in their general direction.
Peace vs. Piece
Peace (harmony, tranquility as in, We all hope for world peace; or After the argument, Jake went for a walk along the babbling brook in search of peace and quiet) vs. Piece (divided portion or section as in, May I please have a piece of pizza?).
Flair vs. Flare
Flair (a special aptitude for something as in, She has a natural flair for writing) vs. Flare (an irregular flame as in, The police use flares to warn drivers to proceed with caution).
Foul vs. Fowl
Foul (a rank odor as in, Sulfur has a foul smell analogous to that of rotting eggs) vs. Fowl (birds raised with the intent to be used for food as in, Turkeys and chickens are examples of fowls).
See the “Mnemonics” section for a tip on how to distinguish the two words.
Where vs. Wear vs. Ware
Where (at or in what location as in, Where did I put my shoes?) vs. Wear (a covering or protection as in, You should wear a helmet every time you ride a bicycle or motorcycle) vs. Ware (article of the same general kind as in, Knives, spoons, and forks are all examples of silverware; or You can purchase screwdrivers, hammers, nails, etc. at a hardware store).
Straight vs. Strait
Straight (not crooked or curvy; without bend as in, The following is an example of a straight line: ------------) vs. Strait (narrow body of water that joins two larger areas as in, The Strait of Gibraltar touches both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean).
Wood vs. Would
Wood (tough fibrous part of a tree and its branches as in, To keep the fire burning, we placed more wood in the fireplace) vs. Would (polite request as in, Would you kindly pick up the children from school?; past tense of will as in, I said I would mow the lawn and I kept my promise.
Course vs. Coarse
Course (an onward movement in time as in, Let the process run its course; intended direction as in, Try to stay on course; otherwise you’ll get lost) vs. Coarse (rough texture as in, The rock feels very coarse, meaning that the rock is not smooth; or The coarse fabric irritated her skin).
Roll vs. Role
Roll (to rotate over and over as in, With the outcome of the game hanging in the balance, Margaret aimed for the pocket, threw the bowling ball, and watched nervously as it rolled down the lane) vs. Role (an actor’s part in a play, movie, etc. as in, I played the role of a zookeeper in the school play).
Principal vs. Principle
Principal (a person of highest rank with an organization or school as in, Matt, the school principal, introduced significant changes to the curriculum) vs. Principle (a basic truth as in, Once you learn these principles, you will understand how to solve the math problems; an accepted rule of conduct or action as in, Many recognize Gandhi as a man of high moral principles).
See the “Mnemonics” section for an example of how to remember the difference between Principal and Principle.
Low vs. Lo
Low (a deep sound as in, The cow produced a low mooing sound; not high or extending far upward as in, The ceiling is very low in certain parts of the house. Be careful not to bump your head) vs. Lo (used to show surprise as in, Lo and behold, it was the butler after all).
Loop vs. Loupe
Loop (shape produced by a curve crossing itself as in, The cowboy fashioned a loop and lassoed the bull) vs. Loupe (a device used to magnify things as in, A jeweler uses a loupe to help identify whether a diamond is real or fake).
Male vs. Mail
Male (masculine; pertaining to or characteristic of a male person as in, All we know at this time is that the anonymous benefactor is a male in his early forties) vs. Mail (letters as in, The mail is delivered to my house six days a week; or I enjoy opening and reading my mail).
I found the following definitions of mail fascinating. Armor made of chains or metal rings. Used as a verb: To clothe or arm with mail.
Complement vs. Compliment
Complement (complete; the quantity needed to fill something as in, The train had its full complement of passengers; to make complete as in, The hat and shoes complement her outfit, meaning that the look is complete, nothing is out of place) vs. Compliment (kind actions or words as in, His compliments were well received by the people hosting the dinner party).
See the “Mnemonics” section to help you remember the difference between Complement and Compliment.
Night vs. Knight
Night (dark as in, We sat around the campfire and told ghost stories well into the night) vs. Knight (a noble guard as in, The armored knight protected the castle’s entrance).
Hear vs. Here
Hear (to perceive sounds with the ear; to listen as in, There is nothing like hearing the sound of waves crashing onto shore; or Did you hear that loud bang?) vs. Here (in this place as in, The book is no longer here, meaning that it is not where it once was).
See the “Mnemonics” section for an example of how to remember the difference between Hear and Here.
There vs. Their vs. They’re
There (in that place as in, Don’t place the glass over there. It may fall and break) vs. Their (belonging to them as in, Their cat is quite friendly) vs. They’re (contraction of They are as in, They’re going Christmas shopping tomorrow morning).
An “all in one” sentence: They’re walking over there in hopes of finding their dog.
Its vs. It’s Its (adjective and possessive pronoun; belonging to something as in, The dog wagged its tail) vs. It’s (contraction of It is or It has as in, It’s important to remember to brush your teeth after every meal; It’s—It has as in, It’s (It has) been quite an adventure).
Made vs. Maid
Made (something prepared from parts or substances as in, Basic dough is made from flour and liquid) vs. Maid (a woman helper as in, My friend hired a live-in maid to help with housecleaning, cooking, etc.). See the “Mnemonics” section to help you remember how to distinguish Made from Maid.
To vs. Too vs. Two
To (in the direction of, so as to reach a destination as in, From here, the most direct way to the restaurant is via Route 17) vs. Too (to a greater extent than is desirable as in, Watching the animal suffer is too much for me to bear; also as in, No problem! We can do that, too) vs. Two (the numeral 2 as in, I’d like to order two pizzas, both with pepperoni).
An “all in one” sentence: These two math problems are too difficult to solve without help.
By vs. Buy vs. Bye
By (near, beside as in, He stood by her in her time of need) vs. Buy (to pay for or purchase as in, I will not buy this used car if it costs more than $10,000) vs. Bye (to advance one round in a tournament without facing opposition as in, The soccer team with the best record will have a bye in the first round of the tournament, meaning that the team will automatically advance to the second round).
Sunday vs. Sundae
Sunday (the first day of the week, the day following Saturday as in, Today is Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday) vs. Sundae (a dish of ice cream served with toppings as in, My favorite dessert is a hot fudge sundae with marshmallow swirls and vanilla ice cream). An “all in one” sentence: During our traditional Sunday drive, we stopped at the ice cream parlor for a sundae.
See the “Mnemonics” section to help you remember the difference between Sunday and Sundae.
Need vs. Kneed vs. Knead
Need (required as in, You need food and water to live. There is a difference between want and need. Most people want a luxury car but they don’t need one) vs. Kneed (to touch with the knee as in, The football player left the game after he was accidentally kneed in the stomach) vs. Knead (to work by pressing or stretching with the hands as in, Kneading the dough properly is a prerequisite to making good bread).
Bear vs. Bare
Bear (animal as in, He saw the bear rummaging through the pile of garbage; to carry or support as in, After the earthquake, the weakened supports could not be trusted to bear the weight of the bridge so they were reinforced; to endure as in, I will grin and bear it, meaning that one will graciously do something that he/she does not want to do) vs. Bare (without covering; without detail as in, In the time remaining, we will only be able to present to you the bare facts of the second case).
Sore vs. Soar
Sore (ach as in, After a hard workout, my body is usually sore the next day; causing mental pain as in, I know you didn’t mean to, but you have touched upon a sore subject) vs. Soar (to rise high in flight as in, I am in awe each time I watch a rocket soar into space).
Your vs. You’re
Your (belonging to you as in, That’s your call; or Your jacket is over there) vs. You’re (contraction for You are as in, You’re a very smart and likeable person; or You’re definitely headed in the right direction).
An “all in one” sentence: You’re too smart for your own good.
Boar vs. Bore
Boar (a male wild pig as in, The hungry boar knocked the other animals out of the way to reach the food) vs. Bore (dull as in, Don’t be a bore; or Much to our disappointment, we found the comedian’s subject matter quite boring).
Did you know that bore also means tidal wave? Here’s an example of how to use this meaning of the word bore: Because of the island’s location, it is in constant threat of a bore.
Team vs. Teem
Team (a group of people striving for a common goal as in, On a project of this magnitude it is important to work as a team; or Cindy is the captain of her basketball team) vs. Teem (to abound as in, The river is teeming with alligators; to pour out as in, Jason teemed the molten ore into a star-shaped mold).
Time vs. Thyme
Time (existence as in, It’s time to go to school) vs. Thyme (an herb as in, Adding thyme to this recipe will engender the perfect balance of flavors).
See vs. Sea
See (to perceive with the eyes as in, The thick fog made it difficult to see what was in front of us) vs. Sea (a wide area of salt water that covers most of the Earth’s surface (roughly 70%) as in, Are you sure you want to sail the Seven Seas by yourself?).
Sale vs. Sail
Sale (to sell something as in, Our neighbors recently put their house up for sale; a bargain as in, Don’t miss the store’s half-price sale on all its merchandise) vs. Sail (a piece of fabric that catches wind to propel the ship along the water as in, During the wind storm, the captain ordered the sails to be taken down to lessen the risk of the boat tipping over; a journey by boat as in, It’s a beautiful day to sail).
Deserts vs. Desserts (pronounced di-zurts)
Deserts (getting what one deserves, whether bad or good as in, When her parents took away her driving privileges because she had missed curfew five consecutive times, Julie agreed that she had received her just deserts) vs. Desserts (a variety of sweet foods, cheeses, etc. served after a meal as in, In my opinion, this restaurant serves homemade desserts that are unequaled).
Wait vs. Weight
Wait (to postpone as in, We decided to wait for the weather to improve before embarking on our long trip) vs. Weight (an object’s mass or heaviness as in, The beams were too weak to support the weight of the building. Consequently, the building collapsed).
Weak vs. Week
Weak (feeble or lacking strength as in, He was too weak to lift himself out of bed) vs. Week (seven consecutive days as in, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
We’ll vs. Wheel vs. Weal
We’ll (contraction of We will as in, We’ll be right back) vs. Wheel (a circular frame designed to revolve on a shaft as in, Your car won’t move if the wheels don’t turn) vs. Weal (a welt as in, The vicious blow produced a weal on his back).
Rays vs. Raise vs. Raze
Rays (narrow beams of light or radiation as in, Excessive exposure to the sun’s rays will cause skin burns) vs. Raise (to bring to an upright position as in, A polite student will raise his/her hand before speaking; to increase the amount of as in, To keep up with inflation, we must raise our prices by 5%) vs. Raze (to destroy as in, The earthquake razed all the buildings in the village).
Sun vs. Son
Sun (the star that provides the Earth with warmth and light as in, If it weren’t for the sun, Earth would freeze and life as we know it would cease to exist. Another sentence demonstrating the sun’s importance is, Many areas are beginning to depend on the sun for energy) vs. Son (a male child in relation to his parents as in, The Jones have one son and two daughters).
Sole vs. Soul
Sole (bottom of the foot as in, He put footpads in his shoes to protect the soles of his feet; flatfish as in, Sole tastes delicious when cooked properly; one and only as in, She was the sole survivor) vs. Soul (the spiritual part of a person as in, Lisa is a very kind soul, meaning that she is caring. Soul can also be used as follows: Laurie put her heart and soul into the project, put forth all her effort).
Sight vs. Site vs. Cite
Sight (the ability to see; the range over which a person can see as in, The moose is well within my sight) vs. Site (a place where some activity takes place as in, We built this site so that children will enjoy learning; or One of the purposes of a military test site is to determine how effective the equipment is before it is used in battle) vs. Cite (to use as support in an argument as in, I will cite the following references to support my position on automobile safety).
New vs. Knew vs. Gnu
New (never before in existence as in, You have brought a whole new concept to the Internet) vs. Knew (past tense of know as in, She knew all along (had a hunch) that she would win the trivia contest; or Cindy knew immediately that she had met the person she was going to marry) vs. Gnu—pronounced noo, the ‘G’ is silent—an antelope resembling an ox with curved horns as in, Witnessing the gnus lock horns was an amazing sight).
Except vs. Accept
Except (excluding as in, I will be able to do everything on the list except chopping the wood) vs. Accept (to agree to as in, We accept your invitation; to welcome as in, The child was immediately accepted by her peers).
Here are additional homonyms. If you do not know the meaning of a word, be sure to look it up in a dictionary and construct sentences using that word. Send them to me and I will gladly post them.
Horse vs. Hoarse
Essay vs. Assay
Forth vs. Fourth
Rain vs. Rein vs. Reign
No vs. Know
Nose vs. Knows
None vs. Nun
Calendar vs. Calender
Hey vs. Hay
Prey vs. Pray
Alter vs. Altar
Vein vs. Vain
Birth vs. Berth
Feat vs. Feet
Mite vs. Might
Koi vs. Coy
Hall vs. Haul
Eight vs. Ate ~ Sent by Mokeo
Hire vs. Higher
Arc vs. Ark
Tear vs. Tier(Note: Tier as in, a tier of knots, is pronounced "tire" as in, changing a car tire.)
Navel vs. Naval
The following are tough to classify because they are a mixture of both homonyms and homographs (great—large) vs. (grate—to shred) vs. (grate—a metal framework) or, in one case, homographs and heteronyms (row—people or things arranged in a straight line—pronounced roh) vs. (row—to propel a boat by using oars—pronounced roh) vs. (row—commotion—pronounced rou). I’ll let you decide. Please note that I have included these examples under homographs as well.
Great vs. Grate vs. Grate
Great (large as in, He collected a great amount of candy on Halloween; or Trevor possesses a great fund of knowledge) vs. Grate (to shred by rubbing as in, Please grate the cheese then sprinkle it over the tacos) vs. Grate (a metal framework used to hold fuel in a fireplace as in, The fireplace in this elegant house has a very ornate grate).
Done vs. Dun vs. Dun
Done (finished, complete as in, You can watch one-hour of television once you have done all your chores; thoroughly cooked as in, When will the steak be done? meaning cooked and suitable for consumption) vs. Dun (grayish-brown as in, The sailor noted the approaching dun clouds and headed back to shore) vs. Dun (to ask for payment of a debt as in, After many failed attempts to reach the woman by phone, the bank official sent a dunning letter via certified mail to her place of residence).
Pore vs. Pore vs. Pour
Pore (a tiny opening through which moisture is emitted as in, People sweat through the pores of the skin) vs. Pore (to study something very closely as in, He pored over the ancient manuscript) vs. Pour (to put liquid into cups, glasses, etc. as in, The waiter poured water into the glass; to come in large numbers as in, Letters poured into the governor’s office in support of her stance on building new parks; to proceed in large quantities as in, Immigrants poured into the country in search of a better life).
Fair vs. Fair vs. Fare
Fair (a gathering for the sale of goods often with recreational activities included as in, At this year’s State Fair, I am going to play games, ride the Ferris Wheel, and eat lots of junk food) vs. Fair (light colored as in, People with fair skin have less melanin than people with darker skin; a just person as in, The principal at our school has a reputation for being tough but fair) vs. Fare (food as in, The children loved the fare at their school picnic; a fee for public transportation as in, I’ll need $1.00 for bus fare; progress, succeed as in, How did Ken fare in the tennis tournament?).
Ring vs. Ring vs. Wring
Ring (outline of a circle as in, The hard water left a ring around the drain; resonate a sound as in, Didn’t you hear the phone ring?) vs. Ring (a metal band usually made of gold or other precious metal worn on the finger such as, wedding rings, engagement rings, and rings used as ornaments) vs. Wring (to squeeze out liquid as in, The towel will dry faster if you wring it out first; to squeeze firmly as in, Failing to convince the Board of Directors of the soundness of her argument, Katie wrung her hands in desperation).
See the “Mnemonics” section for a way to remember when to use Ring and Wring.
Row vs. Row vs. Row
Row (pronounced roh, rō) people or things arranged in a straight line as in, During the fire drill, students were asked to remain silent and to line up in a row so they could leave the building in an orderly fashion; a line of seats in a movie theater, etc. as in, As a child, I always made it a point to sit in the front row of the movie theater. This way, no one could sit in front of me and block my view.
Row (pronounced roh, rō) to propel a canoe, boat, etc., by using oars as in, The weather conditions were ideal, so the elderly couple decided to row their boat across the lake.
Row (pronounced rou) a noisy dispute; commotion as in, The neighbors got into a row over where the fence should be placed.
The horizontal mark above the ō in row is called a macron (pronounced mey-kron or mak-ron). This mark often indicates a long vowel sound, like Oh.