Have you ever come across a word that you know you studied and you are sure you remember the meaning you studied correctly – but the sentence that it is used in does not make sense? Maybe you have come across a word like address or bank and been confused or had to ask your friend what it meant.
In these cases, you most likely have seen a homonym – a word that is spelled the same (homo- means same), but has different meanings depending on how they are used.
These are words that are spelled and pronounced the same. You may also often see homographs – or words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently.
These are not as common in English as some other languages, but several commonly-used words are homonyms or homographs and can easily confused. Below is a list of some of the most common words that have different meanings but are spelled the same in English.
Homonyms List (pronounced the same)
- Most people learn arm to mean the body part that attaches your body/torso to your hands.
- The alternative definition is either a noun or a verb, which means weapons (usually guns) or to weaponized (to get guns and other weapons).
- My arm was itching all day today because a mosquito bit me when I was sleeping last night.
- The government was scared of war, so it armed its army and soldiers with the best guns that it had.
- A bank can be a place that you store money, important and valuable things, and where you withdraw or borrow money when you need to.
- To bank on something means to plan for something or hope that it becomes true.
- There are several banks that I could choose from, but I wanted the one that would treat me like a person and provide the best customer service.
- James banked on his teacher forgetting to collect his homework when he went to sleep without finishing his assignments.
- Bark can be the sound that a dog or other similar animals make, or the act of making that sound (both a noun and verb).
- Bark is also the outer layer of a tree, which protects its trunk.
- The dog’s bark kept us from falling asleep last night.
- When the tree bark falls off the tree, it usually means that it has a disease.
- When talking about a building, a beam is a long piece of material (usually wood or steel) that supports a ceiling.
- A person beams when they smile or grin very happily and largely, usually because they are extremely happy or very proud of something.
- The beams in the middle of the church are a beautiful part of the architecture.
- The parents of the boy were beaming because he had just won the school spelling bee.
- When used as a verb, to bear something means to carry its weight, whether physical or metaphorical. For example, people often bear the burden of something, or can bear pain.
- When used as a noun, a bear is a large animal (such as a brown, black, or polar bear) that usually lives in nature and eats berries and fish.
- The secretary had to bear the responsibility of coordinating the meeting between all the leaders of the different departments.
- Cameron took his daughter to the zoo to see the polar bears.
- When mentioning a piece of a house, a cabinet is a wooden storage area for plates, spices, trophies, and other materials.
- When discussing a group of people, especially in politics, a cabinet is a committee of ministers and department heads who have authority and often give advice to the president or prime minister.
- When we moved into our new house, my fiancé and I went to buy new cabinets.
- The President’s cabinet was made up of his most trusted advisors.
- A cave, when used as a noun, refers to a chamber or hallow area in nature, usually on a mountainside or under water. They are often used as shelter for animals or hikers and climbers.
- To cave, when used a verb, means to give in to something, usually when under a lot of pressure.
- When it started raining on our hike, we ducked into a nearby cave for shelter until the rain died down and we could continue hiking.
- My boss was really giving me a lot of pressure to compromise my morals, but I knew that I could not cave to his demands and instead reported his behavior to the CEO of the company.
- A chair can be the thing that you sit on whenever you are indoors, often near a table.
- A chair referring to a person means the leader of the group, usually someone who has authority over the decisions that the group makes but has a committee to ask for advice from. That leader is often referred to as the chairman or chairperson of the group.
- The chair in the corner of the room is reserved only for people who have a disability, are pregnant, are of elderly age, or are really young.
- The chair of the committee wanted to call everyone together for a meeting today, but no one was available on such a short notice.
- To change something means to make it different, or to get a new one. Change can also be used as a noun to describe the thing that has been made different.
- The change you receive after you give someone cash is the difference between the price of the thing you are buying and the money that you have given them.
- I don’t know how to change a tire, so when my tire blew out on the highway I had to wait for a tow truck to come get me.
- When I paid for my groceries at the grocery store, I received the incorrect change and had to go back to ask the cashier to correct it.
- To check something means to examine something, usually its progress, quality, accuracy, etc. to make sure it is what you expect. A check is the act of doing this.
- A check at a restaurant or store is a bill that you receive, stating the items that you have bought or ordered and the price. You usually ask for the check after you finish your meal at the restaurant, or after you finish picking the items that you want from the store.
- It is a really good thing that we decided to check on our shipments before they went out today because the labels on two of the boxes were mixed up.
- When we finished dinner, my boyfriend picked up the check. (pick up the check = he paid)
- A duck is the beloved water animal that quacks and waddles. It is the generic name for the category of bird-like animals that live near but not in the water.
- To duck means to get out of the way of something, usually to bend the knees to avoid hitting something above your head.
- When I said that you could have any animal you wanted, I had no idea that you would choose a duck!
- “DUCK!” Naomi shouted as the softball she threw accidentally headed straight for Valerie.
- If something is fair, it means that it is just and the two or more people and things are treated equally.
- If someone is fair, they have skin or hair that is very light colored, like blond hair.
- Fair weather is good weather, when the sun is out but not too hot.
- Used as a noun, a fair is a carnival-like event where many food stalls, games, performances, and other entertainment are gathered in one place.
- The sentence “It’s not fair!” has probably been said by every single elder sibling that has been scolded for not letting their younger sibling have something of theirs.
- You should look for Luna; she is a fair-skinned woman with green eyes and dark brown hair.
- I am glad for this fair weather after the rain storms that we had last week!
- Nancy promised her son that the family would go to the Renaissance Fair this weekend, and she regrets making that promise now.
- A file is a folder or collection of related information on a single topic.
- A file can also be a line of people or things, one after the other.
- To file something usually means to submit it, such as a report, in an office setting.
- You may also file your nails, or rub them shorter with a nail file, or an object that is small and covered with a material that resembles sandpaper.
- This is the KGB’s file with every piece of intelligence they have on the attack.
- In kindergarten, the teacher always asks the children to stand in a single-file line when they need to leave the classroom.
- James wants Harry to file a report on the meeting that just finished in the conference room.
- The nail file that I bought is too large, so I want to buy a smaller one for my fingernails.
- A noun grave is a hole dug in the ground to put dead bodies.
- Something that is grave, often a situation or condition, is very serious and warrants immediate attention.
- I visited my grandparents’ graves for the first time in the last year.
- The hostile situation at the local bank is grave because the criminals are not backing down even when the police make threats.
- In informal situations, the adjective gross usually refers to something disgusting or very pleasant.
- In academics, business, and formal situations, the gross something is the total of that thing.
- My sister thinks that all bugs are amazing whereas I think they are completely gross.
- The gross income of the business this year was $1 million, but most of that sum will have to go to pay salaries for employees, taxes, and investments for the next year.
- In your kitchen or the grocery store, jam is a jelly-like spread that is used commonly for bread and pastries.
- To jam something means to squeeze or pack something very tightly into a small place. Jam can also be used as a noun, meaning something that is jammed.
- Strawberry jam is my favorite flavor, and I use so much jam that we have to buy a new jar every week.
- The traffic jam is not even moving; at this rate, we will be late for school.
- A key is something that opens a lock.
- Something that is key is extremely important.
- The janitor’s key ring has over 50 different keys on it, one for each of the rooms in the building.
- The key idea of this passage is that you should not work so much that you forget all other aspects of your life.
- Someone who is kind is gentle and giving, and nice to others.
- A kind of something is a category of that thing.
- One of the most important things you should remember is that you should be kind to everyone you meet, because you never know who they might turn out to be to you.
- There are three kinds of apples that I like, but this grocery store doesn’t sell any of them.
- Left is a direction, opposite of right.
- Left is also the past tense of leave, which means to go away from a place.
- At the end of the road, turn left to get to the bus stop.
- Tom left early from the party because he felt tired.
- A light can be the energy that helps you see things, and the opposite of the dark. To light something means to make something bright.
- Light can refer to something that is not serious, often with a bit of humor.
- Light also means something that is pale in color.
- In addition, light can refer to just a little bit of something, or the opposite of heavy.
- The lights in the stadium are very bright tonight.
- The conversation I just had with my professor was very light; he did not ask me about my future or my dreams or anything to give me pressure.
- Amanda has light brown hair and light green eyes.
- I just wanted to have a light snack before going out because there was light rain downtown.
- A sports match is a single competition, and the generic term for words like game, bout, etc.
- A match is something that you light a fire with.
- To match something means to pair it up with something else; match as a noun also means the pair that has been put together.
- The Wimbledon finals tennis match went on for six hours.
- If I were stranded on a deserted island, I would want to bring a lot of matches with me.
- The teacher matched together Ann and Lucy, and the two of them ended up being a great match.
- A mole as an animal is a small mammal that likes to dig into the ground.
- In spying or with secretive groups, a mole is a spy who gives information to the enemy group, especially when they work behind the back of their own organization.
- In chemistry, a mole is a unit of measure, equaling to 6*10^23 molecules of a substance.
- If you have moles in your yard, you may find that there are holes in the ground everywhere.
- The mole gave the FBI enough information to take down the criminal organization.
- The teacher wants us to measure out a mole of oxygen for our experiment.
- As an object, a pitcher holds drinks that can be poured into individual cups for people.
- As a person, a pitcher is the player in baseball, softball, cricket, and other sports that throws the ball so that the other team can hit it.
- The pitcher of lemonade is for anyone who would like a refreshing drink after being outside in the heat for so long.
- The baseball team’s win today was all due to the efforts of their pitcher, who pitched incredibly!
- To point at something means to put your finger in its direction, or otherwise drawing attention to it. The action of pointing can be referred to as a point.
- The point of an action is its purpose.
- Do not point a people, Sally. It is rude.
- The point of this meeting is to discuss the upcoming writer’s conference we are holding.
- A remote is a device that lets you control something from a distance, often a technological gadget.
- Something that is remote is far away, located in the countryside, and the opposite of being in a city.
- I always forget where I put the TV remote so I have to stand up to change the channel or turn the volume higher or lower.
- The new public health project will be in a remote location.
- A saw is a tool made of a long piece of metal and used to cut wood and other materials.
- Saw is also the past tense of see.
- Any good carpenter must have several different saws, each with a different purpose.
- I saw the Grand Canyon at sunrise, and it was so beautiful!
- A seal is an aquatic animal that lives in cold waters and occasionally comes up on land to rest and give birth to its young.
- To seal something means to close it off or join two parts together. A seal can also be something that seals two things together.
- The baby seal is learning to swim with its mother.
- The bottle was not sealed correctly before David put it in the suitcase, so the liquid inside spilled all over the suitcase.
- A sink is a basin or indent in the land that catches water.
- To sink means to go down, usually below the surface.
- The kitchen sink is leaking water, so the floor is all wet.
- Some objects float and others sink; it is because of the difference in density of these objects that there are two categories of them.
- To stall something means to prevent it from happening yet, or to elongate the time before the event will happen.
- A stall is a booth or individual compartment for something.
- There is a problem with the bride’s wedding dress, so she needs you to stall the ceremony for a couple minutes while it is fixed.
- My favorite turkey leg stall is located in the northeast of the farmer’s market.
- To tire means to become tired and run out of energy.
- A tire is the wheel of a vehicle, including a car or a bicycle.
- If you run a marathon, you will tire very quickly.
- My car tire had a hole in it from a nail, so I had to replace it.
- To trip means to accidentally fall down, due to your keep catching on some object on the ground.
- A trip is an instance of going or traveling somewhere.
- I trip when I walk up the stairs every time.
- Because there are no more eggs, Derek needed to take a trip to the grocery store.
- To wave means to move the hand at someone, in a gesture of greeting.
- A wave is a column of water, people, or something else that comes together.
- The mother told her child to wave goodbye to her grandparents.
- When there is a sale at a store, waves of people come in and try to buy it.
- To watch something means to look at it closely, usually looking for something specific.
- A watch is a device worn on the wrist to tell time.
- You need to watch your daughter when she goes on the slide to make sure she does not fall.
- I used to hate wearing watches but I love this one that my girlfriend gave me.
- To do something well means to do a great job or to perform excellently.
- A well is a hole in the ground through which fresh water can be brought to the surface, or simply a supply of something.
- Well is an exclamation of relief, skepticism, and many other emotions.
- He played so well at the basketball competition that he was named MVP!
- The community no longer had a clean source of water so they dug a well in the ground near their camp.
- Well, Francis thinks that Ellen is approaching the problem in the wrong way.
- A yard is an area in front or in back of a building, often a house, that is usually covered in grass.
- A yard can also be a unit of measurement of length, equal to three feet or about 0.9144 meters.
- The front yard of the house that I grew up in had a swing and a tree house.
- An American football field is exactly 120 yards long.
Homographs (pronounced differently)
1. Address (can be pronounced ADD-dress or uh-DRESS)
- The first pronunciation, with the emphasis on the first syllable, is a noun meaning the directions to a place or a website. You can ask for someone’s address if they are hosting a party at their house and have invited you to participate.
- Both pronunciations can mean the second meaning, which is to speak to someone or something, or to talk about. You can address a crowd, or gather your fellow leaders to address a problem.
- Your business card usually has both your physical address and your email address in case someone wants to get in touch with you.
- The boss wanted to gather together all his advisors before he addressed the crowd at the press conference scheduled for that afternoon.
2. Content (can be pronounced con-TENT or CON-tent)
- The first pronunciation, to be content with something means to be happy or satisfied with it.
- The second pronunciation, the content of something are the things that make it up or the parts that create the whole.
- I am perfectly content to sit here and watch the rest of my family ski instead of going skiing myself, because I am afraid of getting injured.
- The table of contents of a book tells you the different parts of the book.
3. Entrance (can be pronounced EN-trans or en-TRANS)
- The first pronunciation, an entrance, means the act of coming into a place.
- The second pronunciation, to entrance someone means to capture their full attention and create a feeling of deep admiration and curiosity.
- Before the speakers make an entrance, they are introduced by the host of the program.
- The movie was so interesting that it completely entranced my cousins and made them talk about it nonstop for weeks.
4. Exploit (can be pronounced EX-ploit or ex-PLOIT)
- The first pronunciation, an exploit is a heroic achievement or something very impressive.
- The second pronunciation, to exploit something or someone is to take advantage of them, usually in a way that harms them but not always.
- After he came back from his travels, all his friends could ask him about were his exploits all around the world.
- The company exploited the law so that they would not have to pay any taxes.
5. Lead (can be pronounced LEED or led)
- The first pronunciation, to lead a group means to move it forward and take initiative, usually so that others in the group will follow along. A lead is someone who leads, or the initiative that they start.
- The second pronunciation, lead is an element that is poisonous for humans, but is often used in water pipes and paint.
- The group chose Mickey as the leader because she has the most experience in dealing with this type of challenge.
- The government banned the use of lead in all products, but you may still be exposed to it if you live in older houses that were painted with lead paint.
6. Live (can be pronounced liv or LIE-v)
- The first pronunciation, if someone or something lives, it remains alive or makes a home somewhere.
- The first pronunciation, if something is live, it is happening right now and is not previously recorded.
- The birds live in the forest and should not be disturbed.
- I love watching live videos online of celebrities just talking about their day.
7. Object (can be pronounced OB-ject or ob-JECT)
- áThe first pronunciation, an object is a thing, or anything that you can touch or hold in your hand.
- The first pronunciation, to object to something means to oppose it and react very negatively to it.
- There are three mystery objects behind this door – your job is to guess what they are!
- The senator objected to the law and was praised by the public for standing up to it.
8. Suspect (can be pronounced SUS-pect or sus-PECT)
- The first pronunciation, a suspect is someone that people think committed a crime.
- The first pronunciation, to suspect someone or something means to be wary of them (about a crime or for some other reason), or think there is a possibility that they committed a crime.
- There are three suspects for this case, but none of them seem to have done it.
- I suspect that your father wants to go to Greece for our next vacation, which is why he keeps talking about Greek culture.
9. Tear (can be pronounced TARE or TEER)
- The first pronunciation, to tear something means to rip it; the hole that is created can also be called a tear.
- The second pronunciation, a tear is the droplet of water that comes out from someone’s eyes when they cry.
- Anita accidentally pulls too hard on the fabric, causing it to tear.
- When she was done crying, her tears had wet many napkins and her pillow.
10. Wind (can be pronounced wind or WINED)
- The first pronunciation, wind is the movement of air, caused by a difference in air pressure or temperature.
- The second pronunciation, to wind something means to make it twisted or coiled, or moved in circles and made tighter.
- The wind was so strong that it knocked the trees over.
- Old watches and clocks need you to wind them up in order to use them.