Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

Homonyms are words that look and/or sound identical, but — Surprise! – they have different meanings

Words that look the same
sewer (one who sews) and sewer (pipe to carry off waste matter)

Words that sound the same
(of your head) and hare (a bunny rabbit)

Words that look & sound the same
tick (recurring click, as of a clock) and tick (bloodsucking insect)

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as totootwo and their, there, they’re.

Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings. Sow, a female adult pig (pronounced sou), and sow, to scatter seed (pronounced soh), are homographs. Another example is well, as in wishing well, and well, as in well wishes.

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as adverse and averse, delusion and illusion, and prostate and prostrate.

Some (homophone: sum) of my favorite homonyms, homophones and confusingly similar words:

close proximity to
close  shut, not open

ewe  female sheep
yew  tree
you  pronoun

groan  deep sigh
grown  increased in size

holy  pure, sacred
wholly  completely

idol  image
idle  unemployed
idyll  poem

literal  true to fact; not exaggerated
littoral  of or pertaining to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean

peak  the pointed top of a mountain – or tip-top of anything, really
peek   to look furtively; to peer through a crack or hole or from a place of concealment

refuse  no! I don’t want it!
refuse  trash, garbage
Steve of Upland is the Internet’s refuse, many browsers refuse it

toe  one of the digits on your foot
tow  pull along with a rope, chain, or tow bar

way  thoroughfare
weigh  to ascertain the heaviness of
whey  thin part of milk

weak  lacking strength
week  seven days

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

The Homonym Name Game

an indefinite article:  the form of a before an initial vowel sound

bob make a quick, short movement up and down

drew past tense of draw

flow to move along in a stream

frank open, honest, and direct in speech or writing

gale  a very strong wind

grace  simple elegance or refinement of movement; courteous goodwill

hairy  covered with hair

hew  to uphold, follow closely, or conform
hew  to make, shape, smooth, etc., with cutting blows 

john a toilet or bathroom

joy emotion of great delight or happiness

loo water closet — a toilet

may  the verb may expresses possibility — It may rain, and also denotes opportunity or permission:  You may enter.

mic microphone

nick  make a notch in, indent; just catch in time

pat  touch quickly and gently with the palm of the hand

patty a thin, round piece of ground or minced food: a hamburger patty.

fill  to put into as much as can be held: to fill a jar with water

fillip  something that adds stimulation or enjoyment

randy sexually aroused; lustful; lecherous.

sally to rush out suddenly

sandy containing or covered with sand

stew a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in their own juices

sue bring a civil action against

tony fashionable among wealthy or stylish people.

I know there must be many more names for my Homonym Name Game list. Can you think of any? Maybe your name is a homonym. Leave a comment!

Hey! I just thought of another one:
brandy strong alcoholic spirit distilled from wine.

One thought on “Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

  1. Steve says:

    I came up with the list of first names that are homonyms of common words after racking my brain for half an hour.

    Then I discovered that The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary lists more than 500 first names that are also lowercase nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

    A great article by Kathryn Wilkins in the Christian Science Monitor tells you all about homonym names …
    In Scrabble, more than just a name.

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