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What’s the difference between a homophone, a homonym and a homograph? Let Comma Chameleon explain…

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What’s the difference between a homophone, a homonym and a homograph?

The English language is a tricky beast. It’s a notoriously difficult language to learn, with all its mind-bending grammatical rules and principles of spelling. And it really doesn’t help matters when so many of the words that make up the language either look, sound or mean the same. We’re talking about homonyms, homophones and homographs here, of course.

But what’s the difference between the three?

Let’s take a look…

Homophones

The word-ending ‘-phone’ denotes something relating to sound – think of a telephone. A homophone, therefore, is a word that sounds exactly the same as another word, while having a different spelling or a different meaning.

Example: ‘She threw the rock through the window, and knew it would need to be replaced with a new one.’

Download our handy dictionary of homophones, homonyms and homographs.

Homonyms

Derived from the Greek ‘onoma’, the word-ending ‘onym’ means ‘name’ or ‘word’ – think of a pseudonym, or a fictitious name. A homonym is essentially a word that has the same name (spelling) or pronunciation as another word, but a different meaning or origin.

Example: ‘Stood at a fork in the road, he wondered if turning right would be the right decision.’

Homograph

The suffix ‘-graph’ denotes something that is written, or visual – much like a bar graph. That means a homograph is a word that is spelled the same as another word, but which has a different meaning. The two homographs may or may not be pronounced the same.

Example: ‘Wearing a bow in her hair, she stepped to the front of the stage and took a bow.’

 

And there you have it.

Looking for a handy reference of homophones, homonyms and homographs? Check out our handy PDF.

If you just need a quick answer to a pressing question, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

And if you’re looking for some more language-use blog posts, check out some of these:

What is an adverbial phrase?

Comparisons: is it ‘compared to’ or compared with’?

Fronted adverbials: How to use them

Degree adverbs: What are they, and why are we giving up on them?

Historic or historical? What’s the difference?

Have a good one!

The Comma Chameleon team

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About Comma Chameleon

Comma Chameleon is a Manchester-based team of copywriters, editors and proofreaders, with decades of experience. We work with clients throughout the UK to bring colour to content and clarity to messages, no matter the size, format or platform. We simply love words, whether they’re yours or ours.

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