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A witch – Carnival mask

Homophones are words that sound the same but with very different meanings.

The words are usually spelt differently or, if they are spelt the same, come from different roots. For example, the words may be spelt the same, such as rose (as in the flower) and rose (as in the past verb form‏‎ of rise), or differently, such as two and too.

Homophones are often used to create puns‏‎ and to deceive the reader (as in crossword puzzles) or to suggest multiple meanings.

Pronunciation

In many cases a homophone may occur in one variety of English‏‎ of but not another. For example some American speakers will treat these two words as homophones:

tutor and Tudor pronounced ˈtuːdər

Whilst most British speakers will have two very distinct sounds for these words:

ˈtuːdər = Tudor
ˈtuːtər = tutor

Examples of British-English homophones.

  • ad / add
  • altar / alter
  • brake / break
  • buy / by / bye
  • check / cheque
  • close / cloze
  • council / counsel
  • days / daze
  • dear / deer
  • desert / dessert
  • dual / duel
  • eye / I
  • flea / flee
  • friar / fryer
  • gorilla / guerilla
  • hair / hare
  • hear / here
  • knot / not
  • idle / idol
  • pain / pane
  • principal / principle
  • real / reel
  • rose / rows
  • sea / see
  • steal / steel
  • which / witch
  • wood / would

See Also

Homographs – words spelt the same but pronounced differently.

Are Homophones Gay? – article about a stupid school sacking a teacher for writing about homophones in case people thought they were gay.

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