homographs, homonyms, homophones

Homonyms are words that have different meanings but are pronounced or spelled the same way. There are two types of homonyms: homophones and homographs.

Homophones sound the same but are often spelled differently.

The homophones carp (to complain needlessly) and carp (the fish) have the same spelling:

  • Rashad would tune out when his boss began to carp at him.
  • Johanne’s passion is fishing for trophy carp.

However, the homophones cent, scent and sent differ in spelling:

  • When my grandmother emigrated to Canada, she didn’t have a cent to her name.
  • Joe and Bridget’s favourite movie is The Scent of Green Papaya.
  • The parcel was sent by courier.

Homographs have the same spelling but do not necessarily sound the same.

Bank (a financial establishment) and bank (the slope bordering a river) are homographs that are spelled and sound the same:

  • Go to the bank and deposit your paycheque.
  • Jim and Janet went down to the river bank to admire the swans.

But sewer (a conduit for waste) and sewer (a person who sews) sound quite different:

  • The sewer drains were backed up.
  • Novice sewers often buy their fabric on sale.

Note: Some homonyms—such as carp and bank, as we have just seen—are both homophones and homographs: they are both pronounced and spelled the same.

Search by related themes

Want to learn more about a theme discussed on this page? Click on a link below to see all the pages on the Language Portal of Canada that relate to the theme you selected. The search results will be displayed in Language Navigator.

Date modified: