Homophones-May 2007 1
Often the terms homonym, homophone and homograph are used interchangeably. The following definitions should help clarify the differences between the three.
Homophone: One of two or more words pronounced alike, but different in
spelling or meaning (e.g. to, too, two). Homonyms and
homographs are both types of homophones.
Homonym: One of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike, but
different in meaning (e.g. cleave, which can mean to cut and to
Homograph: One of two or more words spelled alike but different in meaning or
pronunciation (e.g. the bow of a ship, a bow and arrow).
As requested by teachers, here is a list of common homophones. Teachers are not
Please expected to teach the words from this list; rather, this list is for reference only.
see the district-adopted materials for specific grade-level homonyms.
already, all ready Already is an adverb that tells when. All ready
is a phrase meaning “completely ready.”
ant, aunt An ant is an insect. An aunt is a female relative, the sister
of a mother or father. Regional dialect can change the
pronunciation of aunt.
bare, bear The adjective bare means “naked.” A bear is a large animal
with shaggy hair.
base, bass Base is a foundation or the lower part of something.
Bass (pronounced “base”) is a deep sound or tone or an
instrument having a deep sound or tone. Bass (rhymes with
“mass”) is a fish.
board, bored A board is a piece of wood. Board also refers to a group or
council that helps run an organization. Bored means “to
become weary or tired of something.” It can also mean “a
hole made by drilling.”
Homophones-May 2007 2
brake, break A brake is a device used to stop a vehicle. The verb break
means “to crack, split or destroy”. The noun break refers to
a gap or interruption.
by, buy, bye By is a preposition meaning near or not later than.
Buy is a verb meaning to purchase. Bye is the position of
being automatically advanced to the next round of a
competition without playing. Bye is also a clipped version of
capital, capitol Capital can be either a noun, referring to a city or money,
or an adjective, meaning “important” or “major.” Capitol is
used when talking about a building.
thcent, sent, scent Cent refers to money (1/100 0f a dollar), sent is past tense
of the verb “send”, and scent is a smell.
complement, Complement means “to complete or go with.”
compliment Compliment is an expression of admiration or praise.
counsel, council Counsel as a noun means “advice” and as a verb,
means “to advise.” A council is a group that advises.
die, dye Die is a verb meaning “to stop living”, while dye is used to
change the color of something.
for, four For is a preposition meaning “because of” or “directed to.”
Four is the number 4.
hear, here Hear is a verb meaning to recognize sound. Here is the
opposite of there and means “nearby.”
heard, herd Heard is the past tense of the verb “to hear.” Herd is a
group of animals.
hole, whole Hole is a hollow place. Whole means “entire or complete.”
it’s, its It’s is the contraction of “it is.” Its is the possessive form of
knew, new Knew is past tense of the verb know. New means “recent”
Homophones-May 2007 3
know, no Know means “to recognize and understand” while no means
“the opposite of yes.”
lead, led Lead /lēd/ is a present tense verb meaning “to guide.” Led
/lĕd/ is past tense of the verb lead. The noun lead /lĕd/ is
loose, lose Loose /lüs/ means “free or untied”. Lose /lōōs/ means to
“misplace” or “fail to win.”
morning, mourning Morning refers to the first part of the day. Mourning means
pair, pare, pear A pair is a couple, pare is a verb meaning “to peel”, and
pear is the fruit.
past, passed Passed is always a verb, the past tense of pass. Past can be
used as a noun, an adjective, or as a preposition.
A motorcycle passed our car. (verb)
I cannot forget the past. (noun)
In my past life I was a dog. (adjective)
He drove right past the house. (preposition)
peace, piece Peace means “harmony” or “free from war.” Piece is a
section or part of something.
peak, peek, pique Peak is the highpoint of a mountain. Peek means “a quick
look.” The verb pique means to “create interest” as in “The
movie poster piqued my curiosity.” The noun pique means
“a feeling of resentment” as in “In a pique, she marched
away from her teasing sisters.”
principal, principle Principal is an adjective meaning “primary” or a noun
referring to a school administrator or sum of money.
Principle is an idea or doctrine.
red, read Red is a color; read pronounced the same way, is the past
tense of the verb meaning ”to understand the meaning of
written words and symbols.
right, rite, write Right is the direction opposite of left, and is used to refer to
a legal claim. Right also means “correct or proper.” It is
Homophones-May 2007 4
also the opposite of wrong. Write is a verb meaning “to
record in print.” Rite is a ritual or ceremonial act.
sew, so, sow Sew is the verb meaning “to stitch.” So is a conjunction
meaning “in order that.” Sow is the verb meaning “to plant.
sight, cite, site Sight means “the act of seeing.” Cite means “to quote or
refer to.” A site is a location or position.
stationary, stationery Stationary means “not moveable.” Stationery refers to
paper and envelopes use to write letters.
than, then Than is used to make a comparison. Then tells when.
their, there, they’re Their is a possessive pronoun indicating ownership.
There is an adverb that tells where. They’re is the
contraction for they are.
to, too, two To is the preposition that can mean “in the direction of.”
Too means also or is an adverb meaning “very or excessive.”
Two is the number 2.
vary, very Vary means “to change.” Very can be used as an adjective
meaning “in the fullest sense” or “complete.” Very can also
be used as an adverb meaning “extremely.”
waist, waste Waist is the part of the body just above the hips. Waste is
the verb meaning “to wear away” or “use carelessly.” Waste
is also a noun referring to unusable or left over material.
ware, wear, where Ware means “a product to be sold. Wear means “to have on
or carry on one’s body.” Where asks the question “in what
place or in what situation?”
(List and definitions source: Kemper, Dave, et al. Write Source. Wilmington, MA: 2005. 652-686.)