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 sewhere and hear, and bear (the animal), bear (to tolerate), and bare (naked).

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that sound identical but differ in spelling and meaning, such as totootwo; and so, sow, sew.

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

And then there’s confusingly similar words, such as emigrant (one who leaves one’s country) and immigrant (one who comes to a country) and flamenco (the dance) and flamingo (the big, funny-looking pink bird). Confusingly similar words are the stuff that malapropisms are made of: I can’t wait to dance the flamingo in the competition!

Here are some (homonym: sum) of my favorite homonyms, homophones and confusingly similar words:

ad advertisement
add to increase; append

advert to pay heed or attention to
avert to turn away
overt open to view; manifest

blew past tense of blow
blue color

dual twofold
duel combat between two persons

filter a porous device for removing impurities
philter a magic potion or charm
The rotund receptionist was supposedly an impenetrable filter, trapping salesmen like me in the lobby as others came and went, but I had a powerful philter with me: a gift certificate to Chick-fil-A.

idle not occupied; unemployed
idol symbol of worship; false god
idyll narrative poem; romantic interlude

lade to load
laid past tense of lay (he laid down)
layed no such word!

misogamy hatred of marriage
misogyny hatred of women
The opposite of a misogynist is a philogynist, a lover of women. Someone who hates men is a  misandrist, and the opposite of that is a philandrist. A misanthrope hates’em all, both sexes.

“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand,” says Linus in Charles Shulz’s classic comic strip Peanuts.  That about sums up my attitude, too.

spiritual pertaining to the spirit or soul
spirituel having a refined and graceful mind or wit
Grace thought watching the antics of the masked wrestlers in Lucha Libre was an almost  spiritual experience–odd for someone of such sophistication, someone with such a spirituel bent.

stanch to restrain the flow (as of blood)
staunch firm in attitude, opinion or loyalty

tern type of sea gull
turn rotation

tort wrongful act
torte kind of rich, round layer cake

The rotund receptionist’s lawyer filed a tort against the baker for irresponsibly displaying an irresistible triple-chocolate torte in his shop window, sabotaging her diet and endangering her health.

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

From dictionary.com…
Word of the Day for Sunday, January 23, 2011

homograph \HOM-uh-graf\, noun:

A word of the same written form as another but of different meaning, whether pronounced the same way or not.

She would pronounce the English word with a real fear, and found its close French homograph absurd, stupidly naval and military.
— Lilane Giraudon, Guy Bennett, Fur

It may help to remember the definition of the word homograph by looking at its parts.
— American Book Company, Kate McElvaney, Teresa Valentine, Maria Struder, Kent Carlisle -, Tackling the TAKS 8 in Reading

Homograph conbines the Greek roots homos, “same,” and graphos, “drawn or written.”

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

I’d love to know your favorite homographs, homophones and confusingly similar words, as well as any humorous malapropisms you’d like to share.

Flamingo dances the flamenco. With a warthog? Check out the judges!

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog  once a week for all of 2011. If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way. –Steve