Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as to, too, two; and so, sew, and sow.
Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings. An example is well, as in wishing well, and well, as in well wishes.
Words that share the same spelling but have different sounds and meanings are also called heteronyms. Sow, a female adult pig (pronounced sou), and sow, to scatter seed (pronounced soh), are heteronyms; they’re homographs, too.
And then there’s confusingly similar words, such as affect and effect, desert and dessert, flammable and inflammable (both mean combustible, easy to catch fire).
Homophones and confusingly similar words are the stuff that malapropisms are made of. A malapropism is the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, with humorous results. Before grampaw could read my poem, he had to put on his testicles. [spectacles]
Malapropisms from Gloria on Modern Family
“Don’t give me an old tomato.” [ultimatum]
“Blessings in the skies.” [in disguise]
“Carpool tunnel syndrome.” [carpal]
“It’s a doggy dog world.” [dog-eat-dog]
Some (homophone: sum) of my favorite homonyms, homophones and confusingly similar words:
colonel an officer
kernel seed in a nut
delusion misleading of the mind
illusion misleading of the mind as well as a misleading of the senses
The lake mirage, far on the desert horizon, was a tantalizing illusion. Steve, crazed by thirst, gave into the delusion that if he flapped his arms hard enough, he could fly to it.
Though the words overlap in meaning, delusion is the stronger word. Illusion, however, is the more common word.
discreet tactful, prudent, circumspect; keep something quiet
discrete separate, detached, individually distinct
A discreet way to inform a gentleman his pants are unzipped is to lean forward and whisper in his ear, “Pardon me, sir, your fly is down.” Discrete from this is the following method… point at the poor guy’s groin and say loud enough for everyone to hear, “Hey! Got a license to sell hot dogs? Your fly’s open, pervert!”
Thanks to computer spelling checkers and unthinking writers, discreet and discrete are so often “misspelled” and mixed up that we all might as well throw our hands up and allow interchangeable spelling for these two words.
Wait a minute! If we did that, discreet / discrete and discrete / discreet would become both homophones and homographs – two, two, two mints in one!
eruption sudden violent discharge; outbreak
irruption sudden violent entrance; invasion
flew did fly
hale salute, greet; summon
insight seeing deeply into something
incite pick a fight
precisian a person who is rigidly precise or punctilious, especially as regards religious rules. The Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock were precisians. So, I guess, are the Taliban.
precision accuracy; exactness
steal take without permission
steel iron treated with intense heat and mixed with carbon to make it hard and tough
tire to become weary.
tire ring of rubber, usually inflated with air, placed around the rim of a wheel to provide traction and cushion the ride. The British spell it tyre, and thereby change a homograph to a homophone.
I quickly tire of Steve’s stupid blog. I’d rather change a flat tire in the pouring rain than read it.
vice moral fault or failing
vise tool with tight-holding jaws
waiver relinquishment of a right or obligation
waver someone who vacillates or is unsteady
See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date.
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