homophone n : two words are homophones if they are pronounced the same way but differ in meaning or spelling or both (e.g. bare and bear)
EtymologyFrom Greek for same sound
- homophonous (adjective)
Usage notesAn homophone is a type of homonym (a word which sounds or is spelled the same as another). An homograph is a word with the same spelling as another, but a completely unrelated meaning. Homographs are not necessarily homophones.
- Mandarin: 同音异义字
- Croatian: homofon, istozvučnica
- Dutch: homofoon
- German: Gleichklang
- Greek: ομόφωνος
- Japanese: 同音異義語
- Kurdish: hevdeng, homofon
- Russian: омофон (1)
- Swedish: homofon (1)
- Spanish: homófono
A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of "rise"), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or two and too. A short example of a homophone is the words "know" and "no". Note that they are pronounced the same but have different meanings. A homophone is a type of homonym, although sometimes homonym is used to refer only to homophones that have the same spelling but different meanings. The term may also be used to apply to units shorter than words, such as letters or groups of letters which are pronounced the same as another letter or group of letters.
Homophones are often used to create puns and to deceive the reader (as in crossword puzzles) or to suggest multiple meanings. The last usage is common in poetry and creative literature. An example of this is seen in Dylan Thomas's radio play Under Milk Wood: "The shops in mourning" where mourning can be heard as mourning or morning. Another vivid example is Thomas Hood's poem "Faithless Sally Brown":
- His death, which happen'd in his berth,
- At forty-odd befell:
- They went and told the sexton, and
- The sexton toll'd the bell.
- At forty-odd befell:
Homophones in the context of word games are also known as "oronyms". This term was coined by Gyles Brandreth and first published in his book The Joy of Lex (1980), and it was used in the BBC programme Never Mind the Full Stops, which also featured Brandreth as a guest.
Examples of "oronyms" (which may only be true homophones in certain dialects of English) include
- 'mint spy' vs 'mince pie';
- 'ice cream' vs. 'I scream'
- 'stuffy nose' vs. 'stuff he knows';
- 'euthanasia' vs. 'youth in Asia';
- 'situation' vs. 'sit, you Asian';
- 'i.c.u.' vs. 'I see you'.
- 'depend' vs. 'deep end'
- 'Grace Gale' vs. 'Gray Scale'
- 'the sky' vs. 'this guy'
- 'ice cream' vs. 'I scream'
Two oronyms appear in "Ana's Song (Open Fire)" by Silverchair. While they initially sound like mondegreens, reading the lyrics will reveal that this is not the case. The first line of the song, "Please die Ana, for as long as you're here we're not", also sounds very much like "Please Diana, ...", which confuses people into believing that "Ana" is a person, when really it is just a nickname for anorexia. The next verse is "And Ana wrecks your life, like an anorexia life", which is another oronym that proves "ana's" real meaning.
American comedian Jeff Foxworthy frequently uses oronyms in his Appalachian routine. Notable examples include, "Initiate: My wife ate two sandwiches, initiate (and then she ate) a bag o' tater chips." and "Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise (Man, there is) a lot of people here tonight."
Mad Gab is a team oronym solving game.
Use in psychological research
Pseudo-homophonesPseudo-homophones are non-words that are phonetically identical to a word. Pseudo-homophone pairs are pairs of phonetically identical letter strings where one string is a word and the other is a non-word. For example, groan/grone and crane/crain are pseudo-homophone pairs, whereas plane/plain is a homophone pair since both letter strings are recognised words, both types of pairs are used in lexical decision tasks to investigate word recognition.
Use as ambiguous informationHomophones where one spelling is of a threatening nature and one is not (e.g. slay/sleigh, war/wore) have been used in studies of anxiety as a test of cognitive models that those with high anxiety tend to interpret ambiguous information in a threatening manner. See Mogg K, Bradley BP, Miller T, Potts H, Glenwright J, Kentish J (1994). Interpretation of homophones related to threat: Anxiety or response bias effects? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 18(5), 461-77.
DreamsHomophones also appear sometimes in dreams; see dream pun.
homophone in Afrikaans: Homofoon
homophone in Breton: Heñvelsonerezh
homophone in Bulgarian: Омофон
homophone in Czech: Homofon
homophone in Danish: Homofon
homophone in German: Homophon
homophone in Spanish: Homofonía
homophone in French: Homophonie (linguistique)
homophone in Italian: Omofonia (linguistica)
homophone in Hebrew: הומופון
homophone in Lithuanian: Homofonas
homophone in Dutch: Homofoon (woord)
homophone in Japanese: 同音異字
homophone in Norwegian: Homofon
homophone in Polish: Homofon
homophone in Russian: Омофон
homophone in Simple English: Homophone
homophone in Swedish: Homofon
homophone in Walloon: Omofone