Homographs: What Are Homographs? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on July 13, 2023

Do you want to learn more about homographs? You've come to the right place. This article will teach you what they are and how to use them in your writing.

In short:

  • Homographs are a type of homonym.
  • Two words that are homographs are spelled the same but are pronounced differently and have different meanings. 

This article is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Homographs?

The word 'homograph' comes from the Greek homographos meaning "of the same letters." As the name indicates, homographs are two or more words with the same spelling. Their pronunciation, however, is different, and so is their meaning. In other words, they look the same but aren't the same, like twins.

Homographs are a type of homonym. The other type is homophones, which sound the same. We'll talk a little more about those later; for now, let's take a look at some homograph examples.

  • tear: water that leaks from a person's eyes when they're emotional / pulls something apart
  • wind: one of the four elements, a gush of air / a bendy road
  • close: something nearby / the opposite of 'open.'
  • bow: a decorative item on a gift / to bend your head or body forward in respect
  • content: to be pleased / what is inside something

As you might have noticed, some words can be different parts of speech. Like 'close:,' it's an adverb as well as a verb.

Since these words have identical spellings, you must rely on context to deduct their intended meaning. That's why, when you use them in your writing, you'll want to ensure the context is clear so your reader knows what you mean.

Examples of Homographs in Sentences

I'm going to show you some examples of homographs in a sentence. I'll be using two (or more, when possible) in the same sentence to show you that if the context is clear, it's not hard to understand which meaning I intended the word to have.

I wrote Miss Besser a letter to tell her I miss her. 

Do you think these dates are out of date?

Can I get a can of coke, please?

The rose became more and more vibrant in color as it rose towards the sky. 

Well, he fell in a well but don't worry: he is well.

Other Types of Homonyms

As I mentioned earlier, there is another type of homonym, and that is homophones. These words are spelled differently, but they sound the same and have different meanings. The 'phone' in 'homophone' comes from Greek and means 'sound,' so that explains it.

Here are some examples of homophones:

There's also a third type of homonym, but these are more rare than the other two types. It's when two or more words sound the same and are spelled the same but have different meanings. There isn't a specific name for these, so they're usually just referred to under the umbrella term of 'homonym.'

  • fly: a black bug with wings / to float in the air, like a bird
  • park: a large enclosed public space used for leisure / stop your vehicle in a location and leave it there for a while
  • train: a mode of transport that travels on rails / to practice for a sport or a particular skill you want to master
  • orange: a color / a fruit
  • fan: an avid follower and supporter / an electrical device designed to keep you cool

Concluding Thoughts on Homographs

That concludes this article on homographs. I hope you found it helpful and that you feel confident about using them in your own writing. Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Homographs are two or more words spelled the same but pronounced differently and with different meanings.
  • Homographs are a type of homonym
  • The other type of homonym is homophones. 

If you enjoyed this article, check out our Grammar Book. It's a free online database full of articles that explain all the grammar concepts you could ever need when perfecting your English.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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