A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a
word A word is a basic element of language that carries an objective or practical meaning, can be used on its own, and is uninterruptible. Despite the fact that language speakers often have an intuitive grasp of what a word is, there is no consen ...
that shares the same written form as another word but has a different meaning. However, some dictionaries insist that the words must also be pronounced differently, while the Oxford English Dictionary says that the words should also be of "different origin". In this vein, ''The Oxford Guide to Practical Lexicography'' lists various types of homographs, including those in which the words are discriminated by being in a different ''word class'', such as ''hit'', the verb ''to strike'', and ''hit'', the noun ''a blow''. If, when spoken, the meanings may be distinguished by different pronunciations, the words are also heteronyms. Words with the same writing ''and'' pronunciation (i.e. are both homographs and
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronounced the same (to varying extent) as another word but differs in meaning. A ''homophone'' may also differ in spelling. The two words may be spelled the same, for example ''rose'' (flower) and ''rose'' (p ...
s) are considered
homonym In linguistics, homonyms are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation), or homophones (equivocal words, that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. Using this definitio ...
s. However, in a looser sense the term "homonym" may be applied to words with the same writing ''or'' pronunciation. Homograph disambiguation is critically important in
speech synthesis Speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech. A computer system used for this purpose is called a speech synthesizer, and can be implemented in software or hardware products. A text-to-speech (TTS) system converts normal languag ...
, natural language processing and other fields. Identically written different senses of what is judged to be fundamentally the ''same'' word are called
polyseme Polysemy ( or ; ) is the capacity for a sign (e.g. a symbol, a morpheme, a word, or a phrase) to have multiple related meanings. For example, a word can have several word senses. Polysemy is distinct from ''monosemy'', where a word has a single ...
s; for example, ''wood'' (substance) and ''wood'' (area covered with trees).

In English

Examples: *''sow'' (verb) – to plant seed :''sow'' (noun) – female pig where the two words are spelt identically but pronounced differently. Here confusion is not possible in spoken language but could occur in written language. *''bear'' (verb) – to support or carry :''bear'' (noun) – the animal where the words are identical in spelling and pronunciation (), but differ in meaning and grammatical function. These are called
homonym In linguistics, homonyms are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation), or homophones (equivocal words, that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. Using this definitio ...

More examples

In Chinese

Many Chinese
varieties Variety may refer to: Arts and entertainment Entertainment formats * Variety (radio) * Variety show, in theater and television Films * ''Variety'' (1925 film), a German silent film directed by Ewald Andre Dupont * ''Variety'' (1935 film), ...
have homographs, called () or (), ().

Old Chinese

Modern study of
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese language, Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones ...
has found patterns that suggest a system of affixes. One pattern is the addition of the prefix , which turns transitive verbs into intransitive or passives in some cases: Another pattern is the use of a
suffix In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns, adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs. Suffixes can carry ...
, which seems to create nouns from verbs or verbs from
noun A noun () is a word that generally functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Living creatures (including people, alive, ...

Middle Chinese

Many homographs in Old Chinese also exist in Middle Chinese. Examples of homographs in Middle Chinese are:

Modern Chinese

Many homographs in Old Chinese and Middle Chinese also exist in modern
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China * Chinese people, people of Chinese nationality, citizenship, and/or ethnicity **'' Zhonghua minzu'', the supra-ethnic concept of the Chinese nation ** List of ethnic groups in China, people of v ...
varieties. Homographs which did not exist in Old Chinese or Middle Chinese often come into existence due to differences between
literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters Differing literary and colloquial readings for certain Chinese characters are a common feature of many Chinese varieties, and the reading distinctions for these linguistic doublets often typify a dialect group. Literary readings (/) are usual ...
. Other homographs may have been created due to merging two different characters into the same glyph during script reform (See
Simplified Chinese characters Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters used in mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore, as prescribed by the '' Table of General Standard Chinese Characters''. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are ...
Shinjitai are the simplified forms of kanji used in Japan since the promulgation of the Tōyō Kanji List in 1946. Some of the new forms found in ''shinjitai'' are also found in Simplified Chinese characters Simplified Chinese characters are stand ...
). Some examples of homographs in Cantonese from Middle Chinese are:

See also

Synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phrase in a given language. For example, in the English language, the words ''begin'', ''start'', ''commence'', and ''initiate'' are ...
* Interlingual homograph * IDN homograph attack * Syncretism (linguistics) * False friend


External links

{{Authority control Word play Orthography