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A look into any dictionary for words will expose a high percentage of words having more than one meaning.

Some of these words with different meaning may have different pronunciations but same spelling. In some cases, also, some words are even pronounced the same but are spelt differently with diverse meanings.

Such words can be quite confusing and so to make them easier to identify, they are classified into three word groups: homophones, homographs and homonyms.

Each of the word groups has its pairs of words sharing some thing in common (identical or same). That is why they all have the prefix ‘homo’ (from the Greek word ’homos’ meaning the same.

Words with the same pronunciation but different meaning are termed Homophones. The suffix ‘-phone’ means sound or voice. So words with same sound are grouped under homophones.

Comedians love to use homophones because the confusion in homophones can trigger more jokes. They work when read aloud.

Examples are as follows:

’The pepper is chili.’ Someone may ask, ‘Do you mean pepper is cold, since chili can mean cold?’

‘Let’s Knead some bread.’ Another may respond, ‘No, we have bread already, we don’t need anymore.

More examples are as follows:

1. aisle (noun) ; a passage between rows of seats in a church, or a theatre as in

‘The bride walked down the aisle in her father’s arm.’

isle (noun) ; an island as in ‘the Isle of Wight.’

2. ail (verb) ; to trouble or bother as in ‘This exercise will ail your back.’

ale (noun) ; a kind of beer as in ‘He drank a pint of foaming ale.’

3. feat (noun) ; a notable act or deed, as in the ‘The old man received an award for

his great feat.’

feet (noun) ; plural form of foot, as in ‘The little boy made a sketch of his two feet.’

4. Compliment (noun) ; an expression of praise, admiration or congratulation as in ‘The manager gave the secretary a sign of compliment.’

Complement (noun) ; something that completes, makes up a whole or brings to perfection as in ‘The sauce is a fine complement to cooked fish.’

The words that are spelt the same but with different meanings are called homographs. The suffix ‘-graph’ means drawn or written.

Homographs can also be confusing to any reader who is not cautious. The only clue to their meanings is the context in which they are used. Sometimes they rhyme differently of change in the syllable stress.

Examples are as follows:

1. ‘The august visitor is coming in August.’ The first ‘august’ means special and pronounced with stress on ‘gust’. The second is the month of the year with stress on ‘Au’.

2. ‘The actors made a bow in the end and dropped a big bow.’ The first ‘bow’ means to bend as a sign of respect or greeting and rhymes with ‘how’. The second is a noun meaning a looped knot for a ribbon and rhymes with ‘low’.

3. ‘The shepherd will desert the flock in the desert.’ The first has stress on ‘sert’ and it’s a verb meaning to abandon or leave. The second is a noun meaning barren or desolate area / dry land and has stress on ‘de’.

4. ‘Even though the old woman was invalid, she was not given treatment because her visa was invalid. The first has stress on ‘in’ and an adjective meaning incapacitated. The second has stress on ‘val’ and meaning not legally valid.

The third group of words are either homophones or homographs or a combination of the two and are called homonyms.

They are therefore words that have same spelling and the same pronunciation but different meaning.

Examples are as follows:

1. Bill (noun) : a written statement of money owed as in ‘You must pay the bill for the work immediately.’

Bill (noun) : a bird’s beak, as in ‘The seagull has injured its bill.’

2. Fair (adjective) : light in colour as in ‘She is fair in complexion.’

Fair (adjective) : just and free from prejudice, as in ‘The referee came to a fair decision.’

Fair (noun) : a market held regularly in the same place, often with stalls, fun and

entertainment as in ‘He won a prize at the fair.

3. Flour (noun) : a fine, powdery foodstuff from a grain like wheat as in ‘We need rice flour to prepare some porridge.

Flower (noun) : a plant that blossoms as in ‘There is a rose flower in the garden.’

4. Halve (verb) : to divide into two equal parts as in ‘The kids decided to halve the orange on their own.’

Have (verb) : to be in possession of something as in

‘Men have stronger muscles.'

The video below shows numerous examples of homonyms; Due to differences in accents, some of the words may not seem to be applicable. However, it is essential that we know them as they may be right with a particular English accent.