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 acts, blue 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 to, too, two; 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 engraved stamp for impressing a design
die singular of dice
dye to color
elicit to bring out
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
new not old
The new gnu knew he had to fit in fast with his adopted herd – hungry lions watch for loners
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
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.
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.