Homonyms examples with types

Homonymy is a widespread phenomenon in the English language. Homonyms are often the reason that spoken English is difficult to understand by those who have just started to learn the language. It also happens that professional translators fail to understand all the intricacies and intricacies of English homonyms. In this article, we will elaborate Homonyms examples.

What is a homonym? From school, we know that homonyms are words that are the same in sound and spelling, but different in meaning.

Homonyms – are spelled the same, but mean different

 Homonyms are often found in English and this is an interesting enough topic that you need to know in order to communicate fluently in English without getting into ridiculous situations, and easily translate any text. Let’s see what kind of words these are and what kind of lexical concept is English homonymy. Homonymy is a phenomenon characterized by the presence in a language of words that have several completely different meanings, although their spelling or pronunciation (possibly both) completely coincide.

Here are some examples in order to make it clearer what these words are: Arm (weapon) – arm (hand) Сan (can) – can (tin can) Well (well) – well (well)

Classification of English homonyms

The classification of homonyms is important when studying homonymy in any of the languages. A huge number of works in which linguists offer different classifications is evidence of this. The question regarding the classification of homonyms is still “open”, since each of the scientists offers his own version. I propose to consider the following classification of English homonyms

Absolute homonyms

are words in a language that is the same both in sound and in spelling.

Sound [saund] – healthy

Sound [saund] – sound


are words that have the same sound, but different spellings. In another way, they are called phonetic homonyms.

 Meat [mi: t] – meat

Meet [mi: t] – meet


are words that have the same spelling but are pronounced differently. Also called graphic homonyms.

Row [] (line)

row [] (out of order)

  • Paronyms are words that have a similar pronunciation, but not completely identical.

Desert [‘dezət] – desert

Dessert [dɪˈzə: t] – dessert

In accordance with the parts of speech to which homonyms belong, they can also be divided into several types: grammatical, lexical, and lexical-grammatical.

Types of Homonyms

  • Lexical homonyms

    – have the same grammatical characteristics and different lexical ones, that is, they belong to the same part of speech, but are not reduced to a common semantic meaning

  • Grammatical homonyms

    – characterized by some common sense, but belong to different parts of speech

  • Lexico-grammatical homonyms

    – have different grammatical and lexical characteristics, but from the formal side, some commonality is found

Homonymy is a source of language difficulties

Homonyms create a barrier to understanding English. This barrier is especially noticeable in the perception of oral speech.

For example, this pair of homophones:

wreak [ri: k] – retribution

reek [ri: k] – stink

These words are absolutely identical in sound, but as you can see, their spelling and meaning are completely different. It is also not so easy to deal with homonyms.

The following pair of homonyms may confuse a newbie in English:

flat [flæt] – apartment

 flat [flæt] – flat

For example, take this sentence:

It is a flat

Two translation options:

It’s flat

This is an apartment

It will probably be difficult for a beginner to translate this sentence correctly. As a rule, the article -a , which indicates that in this case “ flat ” means “ flat ”, goes unnoticed, causing problems with translation. But homographs can lead to the erroneous pronunciation of a word. For example, let’s take one of the most common verbs to read. As you know, this is an irregular verb that does not form the past tense when adding -ed. All three of its forms are written in the same way as to read, but they are read differently. 1st form – read is pronounced [ri: d] 2nd and 3rd form – read pronounced [red]

The way to overcome this barrier is to memorize homonymous words in pairs. If you memorize the most frequently used pairs of homonyms and their meanings, then with the help of the context you will understand what semantic unit is being discussed

Examples of the most common English homonyms

 In the following table, you will find the pairs of homonyms, homographs, homophones, and paronyms that are most common in English and their knowledge will make it easier for you to understand English

Homonyms Meanings
  1. Accept [əkˈsept] Except [ɪkˈsept]
Agree, accept, take Exclude
It’s Its This is His, her 
Loose [lu: s] Lose [lu: z] Free to Lose 
Hole [həul] Whole Hole Whole, whole
Desert [‘dezət] Dessert [dɪˈzə: t] Desert Dessert
Die [daɪ] Dye [daɪ] Die Stain, dye
Earn [ə: n] Urn [ə: n] Earn Urn
Flea [fli:] Flee [fli:] Flea Run, run away
Envelop [ɪnˈveləp] Envelope [ˈenvələup] Wrap Envelope
Coarse [kɔ: s] Course [kɔ: s] Rough Course
Complement [ˈkɔmplɪmənt] Compliment [‘kɔmplɪmənt] Additional Compliment
Creak [kri: k] Creek [kri: k] Creak Stream
May be maybe Maybe (turn out) Maybe
Main [meɪn] Mane [meɪn] Head Mane
Mean [mi: n] Mean [mi: n] Mean Average
Meat [mi: t] Meet [mi: t] Meat Meet
Farther [ˈfɑ: ðə] Further [ˈfə: ðə] Remote Extension
Air [ɛə] Heir [ɛə] Air Heir
Band [bænd] Band [bænd] Group Connect
Bat [bæt] Bat [bæt] bat [bæt] Bat Bat Blinking
Bare [bɛə] Bear [bɛə] Naked, empty bear
Be [bi:] Bee [bi:] Be a bee
Buy [baɪ] By [baɪ] Bye (!) [Baɪ] Buy About Now (!)
Cell [sel] Sell Cell, cell Trade


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