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What are Homophones?

homophone (noun): one of two or more words with the same pronunciation but different spellings and/or meanings (for example weak and week)

Homophones are words that have exactly the same sound (pronunciation) but different meanings and (usually) spelling.

For example, the following two words have the same sound, but different meanings and spelling:

hour (noun: 60 minutes)
our (possessive adjective: belonging to us)

In the next example, the two words have the same sound and spelling, but different meanings:

bear (noun: large, heavy animal with thick fur)
bear (verb: tolerate, endure)

Usually homophones are in groups of two (our, hour), but occasionally they can be in groups of three (to, too, two) or even more. If we take our bear example, we can add another word to the group:

bear (noun: large, heavy animal with thick fur)
bear (verb: tolerate, endure)
bare (adjective: naked, without clothes)

Now let's hear a sentence where we have all five words with their different meanings:

Our bear cannot bear to be bare at any hour.

The word homophone is made from two combining forms:
  • homo- (from the Greek word homos, meaning "same")
  • -phone (from the Greek word phone, meaning "sound" or "voice")