Words with Same Spelling – An Effective Guide

The English Language is known for its diversity and complexity. Many English words are spelled the same but have different meanings. Some of such terms are homonyms (words that have the same sound and spelling but differ in meaning). Others are homographs (words that are spelled the same but differ in meaning, origin, and pronunciation).

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    Wondering what such words are? This article provides a list of common homonyms and homographs and how to differentiate them.

    Words that are spelled the same

    The English language can be tricky, no doubt. Several English words (homonyms or homographs) have the exact spelling but different meanings. Words that fall under these categories often confuse readers and writers alike. Understanding the meaning of these grammatical terms and recognizing them can help clarify any confusion.

    Let’s look at the popular homonyms and homographs in the English Language.

    Homonyms

    Homonyms are words that are spelled the same, have the same sounds but different meanings and use context. This can be confusing when determining which word someone is trying to say, but having a full grasp of the entire sentence can help. Some homonyms have more than two meanings; we’ll look at the popular homonyms in English and their most familiar meanings.

    1. Address

    • Direction: An address is a description of the location of the property. It may include the street name, number, town, and postal code. e.g., John’s address is 109 Hollywood Avenue, Birmingham.
    • Location: Address could also mean the property itself, e.g., I went to James’ address but didn’t meet anyone there.
    • In computing, an address is a number that identifies a specific storage location located in computer memory. It could also mean a string of characters identifying a site on the internet or other network. For example, I.P. address, email address.
    • To speak: To address means to direct a speech to or communicate with someone or a group. For example: John addressed his letter to the Dean of Student Affairs.

    2. Arm

    • Anatomy: The arm is the extended portion of the upper limb, from the shoulder to the elbow. For example, the arm and forearm of the human body are part of the upper limb.
    • Division of a company: ‘Arm‘ describes a branch of an organization. e.g., the cavalry arm of the military service.

    3. Well

    • A manner of doing something: It means accurately, satisfactorily, entirely, or wholly, e.g., Mary cooks well.
    • In good health. e.g., John has been sick, but he’s now well.
    • A source: A hole sunk into the ground as a source of water, oil, natural gas, or other fluids.
    • Interjection: Used to acknowledge a statement or situation and an exclamation of surprise. e.g., Well, I thought we were friends.

    4. Tire

    • To become sleepy, weary, or bored.
    • ‘Tire’ is the American spelling for – the rubber covering on a wheel.

    5. Lie

    • To rest in a horizontal position on a surface; to be placed or situated. For example: the bag lies on the table; the dog lies on its back.
    • To convey false information intended to deceive; to convey a false image or impression.

    6. Bat

    • Bat is a small, nocturnal flying mammal.
    • Bat is a wooden or aluminum club for stroking the ball in sports like baseball, softball, and cricket.

    Homographs

    Homographs are words with the same spellings, but different meanings and pronunciation. One might wonder how it is possible that two words spelled the same can have different pronunciations. Common reason for this is that English is a stress-based language. A word’s meaning can drastically change due to the stressed syllable in it.

    A typical example of a homograph is MINUTE. This word has two different meanings and pronunciations. The first is pronounced as MIN-ute; defined as “a unit of time equal to sixty seconds,” or “a written record of a meeting.” The other is pronounced mi-NUTE and means “very small, very careful and exact, giving small details.”

    Usually, homographs have different grammatical functions. While one could be a verb, the other could be a noun or adjective. Stress patterns in the English language have some predictable rules. For example, in disyllabic words that are nouns and adjectives, the stressed syllable is usually the first. Words like TA-ble and PIC-ture are examples.

    On the other hand, disyllabic words that are verbs usually have their second syllable stressed. Examples are ob-JECt and se-COND. However, this doesn’t apply to every stressed word in English; there are exceptions. One such exception is with the term ‘minute.’ MIN-ute is a noun while mi-NUTE with the stress on the second syllable is an adjective.

    Let’s look at other popular homographs in English to understand this grammatical term better.

    1. Project

    • PRO-ject (noun): A planned endeavor, usually with a specific goal and accomplished in several steps or stages.
    • pro-JECT (verb): To extend beyond a surface, e.g., a protrusion or appendage; to forecast.

    2. Second

    • sec-OND (Verb): To agree as a second person to something, e.g., I second the motion.
    • SEC-ond (Noun): The SI unit of time; something that is number two in a series; something that is next in rank.

    3. Object

    • ob-JECT (Verb). To disagree with or oppose something or someone.
    • OB-ject (Noun): A thing with physical existence; a goal, end, or purpose of something; a person or thing towards which emotion is directed. ‘Object’ is a common term in grammar; it means a noun phrase internally complementing a verb phrase or a prepositional phrase.

    4. Refuse

    • reFUSE (Verb): To decline a request or demand.
    • RE-fuse (Noun): Garbage, rubbish. Items or materials that have been discarded.
    white and black printer paper with different words on them
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    To Wrap Up

    Several words in English are spelled the same. While homonyms are spelled the same but differ only in meaning, homographs have the exact spelling but differ in pronunciation and definition.

    Words that are spelled the same can be confusing to readers and writers. However, understanding the meaning of such words and recognizing them can help clear any confusion.

    Words with Same Spelling – An Effective Guide

    Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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