Making Sense of Homonyms


notes on the differences among the terms homonym, homograph, homophone


Lesson Plan

This is not a lesson plan, but an informational sheet:


homophones - words that are pronounced alike, but spelled differently

- hair, hare
- they're, their, there
- to, too, two
- bare, bear

homographs - words that are spelled alike and pronounced alike, but have different meanings

- bat (the flying mammal), bat (in baseball)
- club (a weapon), club (an organization)
- light (not heavy), light (not dark)

heteronyms - words that are spelled alike, pronounced differently, and have different meanings

- read (present tense), read (past tense)
- bow (kind of knot), bow (to bend at the waist)
- lead (a type of metal), lead (to have someone follow)

Sometimes people call all of them or any of them homonyms. 

There is some dialectal variation that can affect whether certain words are homophones. For example, in many dialects, cot and caught are not homophones because they are pronounced differently. And in some British dialects, court and caught would be homophones since they are pronounced alike. And in some Southern dialects, pin and pen are pronounced the same, so they are homophones.


General linguistics


Grade Level

Grades 3-5