Words And Phrases Often Confused

Similar in spelling and different in usage; or Similar in spelling and different in pronunciation; or Similar in pronunciation but different in usage and spelling; or Similar in spelling but different in meaning; or Slightly different in spelling but might have similar usage; or Words whose usage is commonly mistaken by non native speaker.

In linguistics, a homonym is one or a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings, usually as a result of the two words having different origins. Some books only require that homonyms share the same spelling or pronunciation (in addition to having different meanings), but these are the definitions most other sources give for homographs and homophones respectively. Examples of homonyms are : 1) stalk (which as a noun can mean part of a plant, and as a verb to follow/harass a person), 2) bear (animal), and bear (carry), leaf (part of plant or the page of a book).

Some sources state that homonym meanings must be unrelated in origin (rather than just different). Thus right (correct) and right (opposed to left) would be polysemous (see below) and not homonyms.

Capitonyms are words that share the same spelling but have different meanings when capitalised (and may or may not have different pronunciations). Such words include polish (to make shiny) and Polish (from Poland). The word “homonym” comes from the conjunction of the Greek prefix homo – (o’uo-), meaning “same”, and suffix – onimus (- wvuino), meaning “name”. Thus, it refers to two or more distinct concepts sharing the “same name” or signifier. Several similar linguistic concepts are related to homonymy. The terms homograph and homophone are, however, usually defined the same way as meaning “same spelling” and “same sound” respectively, and heteronym and homonym can be seen as respective subclasses of these.

Homographs are words that share the same spelling regardless of how they are pronounced. Homographs may be pronounced the same, in which case they are also homophones – for example, ball (toy) and ball (form of dance). Alternatively they may be pronounced differently, in which case they are also heteronyms – for example, bow (the front of a ship) and bow ( a type of knot).

Homophone can be called as words that share the same pronunciation regardless of how they are spelled. Homophones may be spelled the same (in which case they are also homographs) or spelled differently.

Polysemes are words with same spelling and distinct but related meanings. The distinction between polysemy and homonymy is often subtle and subjective, and not all sources consider polysemous words to be homonyms. So they can be treated differently also. Words such as “mouth”, meaning either the orifice on one’s face, or the opening of a cave or river, are polysemous and may or may not be considered homonyms.

Examples below illustrate the above given concept : bough – a branch on a tree. bow – to bend forward at the waist in respect bow – the front of the ship bow – the weapon which shoots arrows bow – a kind of tied ribbon bow – to bend outward at the sides bo – a long staff, usually made of tapered hard wood or bamboo beau – a male paramour In derivation, homograph means “same writing”, homophone means “same sound”, heteronym means “different name”, and heterophone means “different sound”.


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