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 axe and actsblue and blew, and clip (fasten, as with a paper clip) and clip (detach, as with clippers).

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as totootwo; for, fore, four; and aisle (passage), I’ll (I will), and isle (island).

Homographs share the same spelling, and often the same sound, but have different meanings. An example is well, as in wishing well, and well, as in well wishes. Other examples are lead (to go first) and lead (type of metal), minute (60 seconds) and minute (very small).

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as elicit and illicit, forgo and forego, principal and principle.
Unscramble these confusingly similar words in the list below.

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

arrant  extreme arrant nonsense
errand  mission; short trip
errant  traveling; straying

creak  harsh noise
creek  small stream

die  expire
die  engraved stamp for impressing a design
die  singular of dice
dye  to color

elicit  to bring out
illicit  unlawful

flea  insect
flee  to run away
Steve has a secret potion to make fleas flee and flies fly off

forgo  do without
forego  to go before, precede

gilt  gold leaf or paint applied to a thin layer of a surface
gilt  young female pig
guilt  culpability for an offence,  crime, or wrong

gin  a type of booze
gin   a trap or snare. Verb to set up a snare; exaggerate
Gin & tonic is a gin to Steve’s common sense

gnu  animal
new  not old
knew  understood
The new gnu knew he had to fit in fast with his adopted herd –   hungry lions watch for loners

The new gnu turns on the charm in a desperate bid to fit in

mignon small & pretty
minion servile follower
The chef’s minion served Steve a filet mignon

patient  a person under medical care
patient  quietly & steadily persevering
Steve was a patient patient: he didn’t complain about the old magazines in his doctor’s waiting room nor the hour-long wait

plain  ordinary & uncomplicated
plane  flat
plane  airplane

Principal Skinner

principal  adj main, foremost; noun person who has controlling authority
principle  fundamental law, rule, doctrine, or code of conduct
The guiding principle of Principal Skinner is to bring order into chaos at Springfield Elementary; Bart Simpson’s principal principle is to bring chaos into order. 

rain  wet stuff that falls from sky
rein  to check or stop
reign  to rule

From my New Oxford American Dictionary . . . 
USAGE: The idiomatic phrase free rein, which derives from the literal meaning of using reins to control a horse, is sometimes misinterpreted and written as free reign — predictable, perhaps, in a society only vaguely familiar with the reigns of royalty or the reins of farm animals. Also confused is the related phrase rein in, sometimes written incorrectly as reign in.

ware  goods
wear  to bear or have on the person
where  at, in, or to what place

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

And please comment with your favorite homonyms . . .  OK, don’t.      I don’t care.

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