Heteronyms: Different Words that Look the Same


Heteronyms are words with different meanings and pronunciations that are spelled identically.

That means moped and moped are not necessarily the same words. They might be two distinct words with completely different meanings. They just look exactly alike. Whose idea was this? You’d think someone would change up a letter or two just to avoid confusion, but no, when I say moped I might mean a motorized bicycle or I might mean that I felt glum and lazy yesterday.

There are bunches of heteronyms in common parlance. We speak and write them daily, yet hardly anyone notices them. In fact, heteronyms almost never cause confusion because context is usually enough  to make the correct pronunciation and definition obvious:

“Feeling sorry for myself, I moped around all afternoon until I decided to enjoy the sunshine and take my moped for a spin.”

That wasn’t hard, right? The first one is the verb pronounced with one syllable  (mpd)  and the other is the two-syllable noun (mpd) Here are some other examples:

  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  • The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
  • This was a good time to present the present.
  • A striped bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • A sewer stitched the tear in the sewer line.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  • Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  • The coop meets in a restored chicken coop.

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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Joan Champaign
    Joan Champaign04-22-2015

    Love what you are doing!

  2. kate golusin
    kate golusin04-18-2015

    interested in purchasing some posters…

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