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Common Homophones

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					Homophones-May 2007                                                                           1


Homophones
Often the terms homonym, homophone and homograph are used interchangeably. The
following definitions should help clarify the differences between the three.

Definitions
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
                     adhere).

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
expected to teach the words from this list; rather, this list is for reference only. Please
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
                      “good-bye.”

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.

cent, sent, scent     Cent refers to money (1/100 th 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
                      “it.”

knew, new             Knew is past tense of the verb know. New means “recent”
                      or “modern.”
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
                       the metal.

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
                       “showing sorrow.”

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.)

				
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