Improve Your Vocabulary: Homonyms Part 2

As promised, here is the second article on homonyms, this time I'll introduce you to some homographs. These are words which are spelled the same, but have different meanings. They can either be pronounced the same, or slightly differently. It just goes to show how ridiculously tricky English can be at times!

Tip: If you are serious about improving your vocabulary, then Troy and I highly recommend you try the popular vocabulary program, Ultimate Vocabulary. Click Ultimate Vocabulary for further information.*

Again, as with homophones , the context of what you're saying or reading will give you the clues you need to know which word to use. It would be a worry, for example, if the jazz trio turned up with a fish (bass) instead of the necessary stringed instrument (bass)! Or if someone deserted (abandoned) you in the desert (sandy place). 

Here are just 50 of the more 'notorious' ones. I've given the pronunciation for each word, CAPITAL letters indicate which syllable to place the stress on.

Strictly speaking, words which have the same spelling and different pronunciation like lead ('leed', to guide) and lead ('led', the metal) are heteronyms, and words which have the same spellings and the same pronunciations (like change and change) are homographs, but I'm lumping them all in together here. Also, quite a few of these words have many more than one or two definitions, but I've restricted it to just two in these cases.

Homograph Pronounced Definition 1 Pronounced Definition 2
absent AB-sent (adj) away, not present ab-SENT (verb) stay or go away
bass baah-ss (noun) freshwater fish bay-ss (noun) lowest singing voice, largest stringed instrument
bat bat (noun) implement used to hit a ball bat (noun) nocturnal flying mammal
bow bou (noun) knot tied with loops for decorative effect, weapon for shooting arrows b-ouw (verb) bend the upper part of the body as a sign of respect
buffet buff-et (verb) strike repeatedly buff-fay (noun) dishes which guests serve themselves
can can (verb) be able to can (noun) cylindrical tin
change change (verb) make different change (noun) money given in balance of the amount paid, clean clothes
close clou-ss (adj) nearby clou-ze (verb) shut, slam, cease trading
console CON-sole (noun) unit with controls for a device con-SOLE (verb) comfort at time of grief
content CON-tent (noun) subject matter con-TENT (adj) state of calm happiness
convict CON-vict (noun) prisoner con-VICT (verb) find someone guilty
cool kool (adj) of fairly low temperature, excellent, fashionable kool (verb) make something colder, calm down
defect DE-fect (noun) flaw de-FECT (verb) go over to the enemy
desert DE-zert (noun) waterless sandy region de-ZERT (verb) abandon treacherously
digest DI-gest (noun) summary of information di-GEST (verb) break down food in the stomach
does duz (verb) carries out doe-z (noun) female deer, rabbits, or kangaroos
down daun (adverb) in lower place daun (noun) soft fluffy feathers
dove duv (noun) stocky bird dou-v (verb) plunged into water
entrance EN-trance (noun) door in en-TRANCE (verb) fill with wonder
excuse ex-CUSE (noun) reason, pretext ex-CUZ (verb) forgive, let off
exploit EX-sploit (noun) daring deed ex-SPLOIT (verb) make full use of, prey on
fine fine (adj) of top quality, in good health fine (noun) financial penalty
import IM-port (noun) item brought in from abroad for sale, implicit meaning im-PORT (verb) buy from abroad
incense IN-cense (noun) perfume that is burned in-CENSE (verb) send into a rage
intimate IN-tim-ate (adj) closely acquainted, friendly, private in-tim-ATE (verb) make known, hint
invalid IN-valid (noun) person disabled by illness in-VALID (adj) not valid, untrue
lead leed (verb) guide, be ahead led (noun) soft metal
learned learn-ed (adj) scholarly, well educated lernd acquired knowledge
live lie-v (adj) living li-v (verb) remain alive, reside
minute MIN-ut (noun) 60 seconds mine-UTE (adj) extremely tiny
moped mope-d (verb) languished, brooded MO-ped (noun) light motor cycle
object OB-ject (noun) a thing ob-JECT (verb) protest, oppose
perfect PER-fect (adj) faultless per-FECT (verb) improve something
permit PER-mit (noun) authorisation, document per-MIT (verb) officially allow
present PRE-sent (adj) in attendance, gift pre-SENT hand over, introduce
proceeds PRO-ceeds (noun) money from an event pro-CEEDS begins, goes
project PRO-ject (noun) scheme, assignment pro-JECT (verb) forecast, throw
protest PRO-test (noun) objection, demonstration pro-TEST (verb) raise objection
read reed (noun) period of reading red (verb) had perused written material (past participle)
refuse RE-fuse (noun) rubbish, trash re-FUSE (verb) turn down
reject RE-ject (noun) substandard goods re-JECT (verb) refuse, spurn
resume RE-sume (verb) restart RE-sue-may (noun) curriculum vitae
rose rose (noun) flower with thorns rose (verb) moved upwards
row roh (noun) things in a straight line, (verb) move a boat with oars rauw noisy quarrel
sewer so-wer (noun) someone who sews sue-er (noun) underground pipe for waste
subject SUB-ject (noun) topic sub-JECT (to) (adj) affected by
tear teer (noun) teardrop shed when crying tare (verb) rip up
transport TRAN-sport (noun) system of mass transit trans-PORT (verb) convey from one place to another, overwhelm with joy
wave wave (verb) move hand in greeting wave (noun) breaking curve of water
wound woo-nd (noun) injury wow-nd twisted up, turned
yard yard (noun) linear measurement yard (noun) enclosed area of land

You might have noticed that in many of these homographs, often when the accent is on the first syllable, the words are nouns or adjectives, and when it is on the second syllable the word is a verb. 

*Troy and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse that software.


Last modified on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 02:16
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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