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In
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguistics
, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are
homograph A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with ...
s (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation) or
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct ...
s (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. For example, according to this definition, the words ''row'' (propel with oars) and ''row'' (a linear arrangement) are homonyms, as are the words ''see'' (vision) and ''sea'' (body of water). A more restrictive or technical definition sees homonyms as words that are simultaneously homographs ''and'' homophoneshomonym
''Random House Unabridged Dictionary'' at dictionary.com
– that is to say they have identical spelling ''and'' pronunciation, whilst maintaining different meanings. Examples are the pair ''stalk'' (part of a plant) and ''stalk'' (follow/harass a person) and the pair ''left'' (
past tense The past tense is a grammatical tense In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the ...
of leave) and ''left'' (opposite of right). A distinction is sometimes made between true homonyms, which are unrelated in origin, such as ''skate'' (glide on ice) and ''skate'' (the fish), and polysemous homonyms, or
polysemes Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are ho ...
, which have a shared origin, such as ''mouth'' (of a river) and ''mouth'' (of an animal). The relationship between a set of homonyms is called homonymy, and the associated adjective is homonymous or homonymic. The adjective "homonymous" can additionally be used wherever two items share the same name, independent of how closely they are or are not related in terms of their meaning or etymology. For example, the name Ōkami is homonymous with the Japanese term for "wolf" (Ōkami).


Etymology

The word ''homonym'' comes from the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
ὁμώνυμος (''homonymos''), meaning "having the same name", which is the conjunction of ὁμός (''homos''), "common, same, similar " and ὄνομα (''onoma'') meaning "name". Thus, it refers to two or more distinct concepts sharing the "same name" or signifier. Note: for the ''h'' sound, see
rough breathing In the polytonic orthography Greek orthographyThe orthography of the Greek language ultimately has its roots in the adoption of the Greek alphabet in the 9th century BC. Some time prior to that, one early form of Greek, Mycenaean language, My ...
and
smooth breathing The smooth breathing ( grc, ψιλὸν πνεῦμα, psilòn pneûma; ell, ψιλή ''psilí''; la, spīritus lēnis) is a diacritical mark A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph adde ...
.


Related terms

Several similar linguistic concepts are related to homonymy. These include: *
Homograph A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with ...
s (literally "same writing") are usually defined as words that share the same spelling, regardless of how they are pronounced.Some sources restrict the term "homograph" to words that have the same spelling but ''different'' pronunciations. See, for example
''The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems'', p. 215
(Wiley-Blackwell, 1999) and ''The Encyclopædia Britannica (14th Edition)'' (entry for "homograph").
If they are pronounced the same then they are also
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct ...
s (and homonyms) – for example, ''bark'' (the sound of a dog) and ''bark'' (the skin of a tree). If they are pronounced differently then they are also heteronyms – for example, ''bow'' (the front of a ship) and ''bow'' (a ranged weapon). *
Homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct ...
s (literally "same sound") are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled.Some sources restrict the term "homophone" to words that have the same pronunciation but ''different'' spellings. See, for example
''The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems'', p. 202
(Wiley-Blackwell, 1999) and ''The Encyclopædia Britannica (14th Edition)'' (entry for "homograph").
If they are spelled the same then they are also homographs (and homonyms); if they are spelled differently then they are also heterographs (literally "different writing"). Homographic examples include ''rose'' (flower) and ''rose'' (past tense of ''rise''). Heterographic examples include ''to'', ''too'', ''two'', and ''there'', ''their'', ''they’re''. Due to their similar yet non-identical pronunciation in American English, ''ladder'' and ''latter'' do not qualify as homophones, but rather synophones. * Heteronyms (literally "different name") are the subset of homographs (words that share the same spelling) that have different pronunciations (and meanings).Some sources do not require that heteronyms have different pronunciations. See, for example, the archive
''Encarta'' dictionary entry
(which states that heteronyms "often" differ in pronunciation) and th

(which states that heteronyms "sometimes" have different pronunciations).
Such words include ''desert'' (to abandon) and ''desert'' (arid region); ''tear'' (to rip) and ''tear'' (a drop of moisture formed in one eye); ''row'' (to argue or an argument) and ''row'' (as in to row a boat or a row of seats - a pair of homophones). Heteronyms are also sometimes called heterophones (literally "different sound"). *
Polysemes Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are ho ...
are words with the 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. Words such as ''mouth'', meaning either the orifice on one's face, or the opening of a
cave A cave or cavern is a natural void in the Earth#Surface, ground, specifically a space large enough for a human to enter. Caves often form by the weathering of rock and often extend deep underground. The word ''cave'' can also refer to much small ...

cave
or
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...

river
, are polysemous and may or may not be considered homonyms. *
Capitonym A capitonym is a word that changes its meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) when it is capitalized; the capitalization usually applies due to one form being a proper noun or eponym. It is a portmanteau A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word (f ...
s are words that share the same spelling but have different meanings when capitalized (and may or may not have different pronunciations). Such words include ''polish'' (make shiny) and ''
Polish Polish may refer to: * Anything from or related to Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Pol ...
'' (from Poland); ''march'' (walk in step) and ''
March March is the third month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days ...

March
'' (the third
month A month is a unit of time, used with calendars, that is approximately as long as a natural orbital period of the Moon; the words ''month'' and ''Moon'' are cognates. The traditional concept arose with the cycle of Moon phases; such lunar months ("l ...
of the
Year A year is the orbital period of a planetary body, for example, the Earth, moving in Earth's orbit, its orbit around the Sun. Due to the Earth's axial tilt, the course of a year sees the passing of the seasons, marked by change in weather, the ...
) and the pair: ''reading'' (using a book) and
Reading Reading is the process of taking in the sense or meaning of letters, symbols, ''etc.'', especially by sight or touch. For educators and researchers, reading is a multifaceted process involving such areas as word recognition, orthography An ...
(towns in, among other places,
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
).


Further examples

A homonym which is both a homophone and a homograph is fluke, meaning: *A fish, and a
flatworm The flatworms, flat worms, Platyhelminthes, or platyhelminths (from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a count ...

flatworm
. *The end parts of an
anchor An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a Watercraft, vessel to the Seabed, bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to Leeway, wind or Ocean current, current. The word derives from Latin ''ancora'' ...

anchor
. *The fins on a
whale Whales are a widely distributed and diverse group of fully aquatic Aquatic means relating to water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance, which is ...

whale
's tail. *A stroke of
luck Luck is the phenomenon and belief that defines the experience of notably positive, negative, or improbable events. The naturalistic interpretation is that positive and negative events may happen at any time, both due to random and non-random n ...

luck
. These meanings represent at least three
etymologically Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". is the study of the history of words. By extension, t ...
separate
lexeme A lexeme () is a unit of lexical meaning that underlies a set of words that are related through inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeol ...
s, but share the one form, fluke.* Note that fluke is also a capitonym, in that
Fluke Corporation Fluke Corporation, a subsidiary of Fortive, is a manufacturer of industrial test, measurement and diagnostic equipment including electronic test equipment. It was started in 1948 by John Fluke, who was a friend and roommate of David Packard, futu ...
(commonly referred to as simply "Fluke") is a manufacturer of industrial testing equipment. Similarly, a river bank, a savings bank, a bank of switches, and a bank shot in the game of pool share a common spelling and pronunciation, but differ in meaning. The words bow and bough are examples where there are two meanings associated with a single pronunciation and spelling (the weapon and the knot); two meanings with two different pronunciations (the knot and the act of bending at the waist), and two distinct meanings sharing the same sound but different spellings (bow, the act of bending at the waist, and bough, the branch of a tree). In addition, it has several related but distinct meanings – a bent line is sometimes called a 'bowed' line, reflecting its similarity to the weapon. Even according to the most restrictive definitions, various pairs of sounds and meanings of bow, Bow and bough are
homonyms In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
,
homographs A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a word that shares the same written form as another word but has a different meaning. However, some dictionaries insist that the words must also ...
,
homophones 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, as in ''rose'' (flower) and ''rose'' (past tense of '' ...
, heteronyms, heterographs, capitonyms and are
polysemous Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic fieldIn linguistics Linguistics is the science, s ...
. *bow – a long wooden stick with horse hair that is used to play certain
string instrument String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instrument A musical instrument is a device created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument ...

string instrument
s such as the
violin The violin, sometimes known as a ''fiddle'', is a wooden chordophone (string instrument) in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and thus highest-pitched instrument (soprano) in the family in regular ...

violin
*bow – to bend forward at the waist in respect (e.g. "bow down") *bow – the front of the ship (e.g. "bow and stern") *bow – a kind of tied ribbon (e.g. bow on a present, a bowtie) *bow – to bend outward at the sides (e.g. a "bow-legged" cowboy) *
Bow Bow often refers to: * Bow and arrow The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons ar ...
 – a district in
London London is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lowerc ...

London
*bow—a weapon to shoot projectiles with (e.g. a bow and arrow) A lime can refer to a
fruit In botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field. The term "botany" comes from the ...
or a
material Material is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition * Matter, anything that has mass and ...
. A mold (mould) can refer to a
fungus A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full ...

fungus
or an industrial cast. The words ''there'', ''their'', and ''they're'' are examples of three words that are of a singular pronunciation, have different spellings and vastly different meanings. These three words are commonly misused (or misspelled if you want to look at it that way). *there - "The bow shot the arrow there," he said as he pointed. *their - "It was their bow and arrow." the Mother said. *they're - They're not going to get to shoot the bow again after puncturing the tire(tyre) on Daddy's car. ( Contraction of
They In Modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until ...

They
and Are.)


Homonyms in historical linguistics

Homonymy can lead to communicative conflicts and thus trigger lexical ( onomasiological) change.On this phenomenon see Williams, Edna R. (1944), ''The Conflict of Homonyms in English'', ale Studies in English 100 New Haven: Yale University Press, Grzega, Joachim (2004), ''Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie'', Heidelberg: Winter, p. 216ff., and Grzega, Joachim (2001d), “Über Homonymenkonflikt als Auslöser von Wortuntergang”, in: Grzega, Joachim (2001c), ''Sprachwissenschaft ohne Fachchinesisch: 7 aktuelle Studien für alle Sprachinteressierten'', Aachen: Shaker, p. 81-98. This is known as ''homonymic conflict''.


See also

*
Heterography and homographyIn linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include pho ...
*
Synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone ...
s, different words with identical or very similar meanings (conceptual inversion of "homonym") *
riddles A riddle is a :wikt:statement, statement, question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: ''enigmas'', which are problems generally expressed in metaphorical or Allegory, allegor ...
* wordplay


Notes


References


Further reading

* * * * {{Authority control Types of words