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 semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many languages, words also corres ...
that shares the same written form as another word but has a different meaning. However, some dictionaries insist that the words must also sound different, 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 homophones) are considered homonyms. 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, natural language processing and other fields. Identically written different senses of what is judged to be fundamentally the ''same'' word are called polysemes; for example, ''wood'' (substance) and ''wood'' (area covered with trees).


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 homonyms.

More examples

In Chinese

Many Chinese Variety (linguistics), varieties have homographs, called () or (), ().

Old Chinese

Modern study of Old Chinese has found patterns that suggest a system of affixes. One pattern is the addition of the prefix , which turns transitive verbs into intransitive verb, intransitive or passive voice, passives in some cases: Another pattern is the use of a suffix, which seems to create nouns from verbs or verbs from nouns:

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 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. Other homographs may have been created due to merging two different characters into the same glyph during script reform (See Simplified Chinese characters and Shinjitai). Some examples of homographs in Cantonese from Middle Chinese are:

See also

* Heterography and homography * Interlingual homograph * IDN homograph attack * Syncretism (linguistics) * False friend


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