Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

Homonyms are words that sound the same and sometimes even have the same spelling, but they have different meanings and origins. Examples are so and sew, here and hear, and bear (the animal) and bear (to tolerate).

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that sound identical but differ in spelling and meaning, such as to, too, two.

Homographs are words identical in spelling and often with the same sound, but they have different meanings. An example is well, a hole drilled in the earth to obtain water, and well, in good health.

Written homonyms are easy to spot: as you read, your eye scans a sentence and quickly understands the context in which a homonym is used. The eye may not be fooled, but the ear can easily stumble over spoken homonyms, resulting in a thoroughly confused listener: Juan won one two-to-one, too.

If you find yourself noticing homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words, please leave a comment with your favorites.

Here are a few of my favorite homonyms and confusingly similar words:

beach shore
beech a type of tree

doe female deer
dough flour mixed with water, milk, etc. for baking into bread; slang for money

floe large mass of floating ice
flow uninterrupted movement

knight Sir Lancelot is one
night the darkness between sunset and sunrise
(Just saw an ad for a new movie called Knight & Day)

pedal (noun) foot lever; (verb) to ride a bicycle
peddle to sell or offer to sell from place to place
petal portion of a flower

penal pertaining to punishment
penile relating to or affecting the penis

From Yahoo! Answers

Is it called the penile system?

i really feel like another name for the punishment/penitentiary system is called “penile system” but i wasn’t sure so i looked it up in the dictionary and it only mentioned the male body…. which i knew, of course, but there wasn’t a secondary definition or anything.

is that what it’s called??

Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

I’m laughing so hard I wet myself!! It’s penal system.

profit gain
prophet one who predicts the future

weather state of atmosphere as to heat, cold, and so forth
whether if it be the case that

A few examples of homographs:

bass low in pitch, a bass guitar
bass the fish

dove the bird
dove plunge, submerge, descend; he dove into the deep end of the pool.

sow to scatter seed; implant, introduce or promulgate
sow adult female swine
Homophones for sow were mentioned at the start of this post: sew and so
(“sew and so,” I guess, is a homophone for the noun so-and-so, an unnamed or unspecified person, thing or action).

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date

“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” is a grammatically valid sentence in the English language, used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated linguistic constructs. Check it out