'Sole' vs 'Soul': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on July 20, 2023

‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’: What’s the Difference? Words that sound the same but mean totally different things are some of the most frustrating to learn. But, once you’ve learned them you’ve practically got two for the price of one. 

In a hurry? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: 

  • ‘Sole’ can mean many things but mainly means the bottom of a foot, and can also mean one and only
  • ‘Soul’ is considered the spiritual part of a person’s 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’?

‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’ are a good pair of new words to learn because of how commonly they appear in the English language. They are both nouns and can be used in a variety of contexts. But, the spelling of these words is what, in writing, makes them stand apart. 

‘Sole’ with an “e” means two things: the bottom of the foot and the one and only. The first definition comes from the Latin root “solum” which means ‘bottom,’ and the second definition comes from the similar “solus” which means ‘alone.’ 

  • A hint for keeping this in your head is to think of the word ‘solo’ as in “solo traveling” or “rolling solo,” where you are the “one and only” person in the scenario hence: sole. 

Meanwhile, ‘Soul’ with a “u” has a more spiritual connotation and is seen as the immortal part of a person. 

  • A trick for remembering this meaning corresponds to this spelling? Your soul is inside you, just like the “u” is inside ‘Soul.’ 

Now this is all easy to remember in writing, but what if the words aren’t written in front of you? Words like these, called homophones, can be confusing because of their identical sounds — but context clues are a great way to sort them out. More on context later, but first, let’s learn more about homophones. 

What Are Homophones? 

Knowing what homophones are can be helpful in learning new words like ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul.’ This will be a short overview, but you can also read more about them in other articles

So what exactly is a homophone?

  • Homophones are words that are pronounced the same, are spelled differently, and mean the same thing. 
  • The etymology of this word is a helpful way to remember: ‘homo’ means “same,” and ‘graph’ means “sound.” 

Note: Homophones are different from homographs and homonyms.

Here are some other examples of homophones: 

While homophones typically come in pairs, you can see that they can also appear in groups of three or more. Homophones can help us unlock new spellings or meanings of words, which is why they’re confusing but helpful vocabulary builders. ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’ are, of course, great examples of this, so let’s dive into these two new words. 

Definition of ‘Sole’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Sole’ is a noun that means:

  • The undersurface of a person’s foot
    • “The soles of their feet were nearly black with dirt.”
  • The section forming the underside of a piece of footwear (typically excluding the heel)
    • “The sole of his shoe was scuffed.” 
  • The undersurface of a tool or implement, such as a plane or the head of a golf club
    • The floor of a ship’s cabin or cockpit.
  • A marine flatfish of almost worldwide distribution, important as a food fish

As a verb, ‘Sole’ can also mean: 

  • To put a new sole onto a shoe
    • “He wanted several pairs of boots to be soled and heeled.”

Finally, as an adjective, the word ‘Sole’ is defined as: 

  • One and only
    • “My sole aim was to contribute to the national team.”
  • Belonging or restricted to one person or one group of people
    • “Loans can be in sole or joint names.”
  • Alone or unaccompanied

Synonyms of ‘Sole’

  • Bottom
  • Exclusive
  • Singular
  • Lone
  • Alone

Antonyms of ‘Sole’

  • Combined
  • Joint
  • Common
  • Mixed
  • General
  • Ordinary

Phrases with ‘Sole’

  • Sole guardian
  • Sole proprietor 
  • Sole purpose 
  • Sole meaning

Definition of ‘Soul’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Soul’ is a noun that means: 

  • The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal is regarded as immortal
    • “They believe death is just one step on the soul’s journey through the universe.”
  • A person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity
    • “In the depths of her soul, she knew he would betray her.”
  • Emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance
    • Their interpretation lacked soul.”
  • Soul music, a genre originating in the African American community in the 1950s
  • The essence or embodiment of a specified quality
    • “He was the soul of discretion.”
  • An individual person
    • “I will never tell a soul.”
  • A person regarded with affection or pity
    • “A poor old soul.” 

NOTE:  “Soul” is also the title of a recently released Disney Pixar film about jazz music and one’s meaning in life. 

Synonyms of ‘Soul’ 

  • Psyche
  • Energy
  • Being
  • Essence
  • Conscience
  • Spirit
  • Personality
  • Body
  • Character

Antonyms for ‘Soul’

  • Body
  • Exteriority
  • Concrete
  • Coolness
  • Ignorance
  • Fear
  • Cowardice

Phrases with ‘Soul’

  • Soul music
  • Don’t tell a soul
  • Soulless 
  • Body and soul
  • Heart and soul
  • Save my soul
  • Soul Surfer 

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’

One nice thing about homophones is that when you learn how to pronounce one form of the word, you’ve got the others in the bag as well. ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’ sound exactly the same, which makes learning to pronounce them rather easy, but distinguishing them in conversation is a bit more difficult. Before we get to that, let’s make sure you can say these new words correctly. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Sole’ and ‘Soul’ as a guide: 

  • ‘sOhl’ (with a long “o” sound as in ‘roar’ or ‘hole’)

How to Use ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’ in a Sentence

The final trick with homophones comes in identifying which word is being used, and when it’s not written in front of us we have to rely on context. This becomes most useful in conversation when we need to identify the proper use of the word given the clues around us. 

One of the most helpful ways context can be identified is by seeing other examples of how these words may appear in the real world. Below you’ll find some example sentences that you can review to nail down what word is appropriate at what time and also see how these words are used in general. 

‘Sole’ Example Sentences

  • The soles of his shoes were totally worn away after a long season of running track and field. 
  • Many ballerinas build up calluses on the soles of their feet from dancing on pointe. 
  • The man had to face the trauma of being the sole survivor of the plane crash. 
  • She was the sole heir to the throne, making her next in line for the crown despite the country’s disapproval. 

‘Soul’ Example Sentences

  • Many believe that our souls live on after death and get reincarnated into a new life. 
  • She poured her heart and soul into the dramatic ballad she sang at the choir performance. 
  • He was the soul of their group, often keeping the peace and raising morale. 
  • They promised they wouldn’t tell a soul about the world-altering secret they discovered. 

Final Advice on ‘Sole’ vs ‘Soul’

Encountering homophones can be scary at first because it seems that the words are designed to trick you. Yet, they are a great way to expand your knowledge of a language and learn how to use different words in multiple ways despite their identical sound. 

Want a recap? Here’s a quick review of what we covered: 

  • ‘Sole’ is a term that means both ‘the bottom of a person’s foot and ‘the one and only. 
  • While ‘Soul’ is a noun that means the spiritual and immaterial essence of a person, which you can remember by putting the “u” in Soul.
  • Finally, homophones are words that sound identical but are spelled differently and have different definitions.

Homophones are just one type of confusing word, so be sure to keep reading more to keep your mind sharp and not miss other common vocabulary mix-ups. Also, remember that context is key in scenarios like this, and reading and writing your own example sentences are a great way to practice. Keep learning new words! 

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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