Jan 10, 2011


Homonym (HOM - uh - NIM) - (n.) one of two or more words or phrases that are either: spelled the same, but have different meanings and perhaps pronunciations; pronounced the same, despite different spellings, and with different meanings; or spelled and pronounced alike, but different in meaning. Examples include the verb bow (before the king) versus the noun bow (as in bow and arrow); to, too and two; or bore (meaning to drill and also meaning to fail to entertain).

From the Greek words homos and onoma, meaning same and name, respectively, homonym was first used in English in the 1600s.

Thanks to my colleague Chris (and the great site StumbleUpon), I was recently introduced to Alan Cooper's Homonym List. This website includes an A-Z list of nearly every homonym, homophone and homograph in the English language. If you can think of a pair that isn't there, send it to Alan! And check out his "All About Homonyms" page that not only explains why he started the site, but includes his own invention of "Fractonyms"—broken words and phrases like a parent/apparent and 'fraid/frayed.

For even more definitions of this diverse word, visit Merriam-Webster.com.

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