hom·​onym | \ ˈhä-mə-ˌnim How to pronounce homonym (audio) , ˈhō- \

Definition of homonym

1a grammar : homophone the homonyms there and their
b grammar : homograph The words lead, as in the metal, and lead, as in the verb, are homonyms.
c grammar : one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning (such as the noun quail and the verb quail)
3 biology : a taxonomic designation rejected as invalid because the identical term has been used to designate another group of the same rank — compare synonym

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Other Words from homonym

homonymic \ ˌhä-​mə-​ˈni-​mik How to pronounce homonymic (audio) , ˌhō-​ \ adjective

What are homonyms, homophones, and homographs?

Homonym can be troublesome because it may refer to three distinct classes of words. Homonyms may be words with identical pronunciations but different spellings and meanings, such as to, too, and two. Or they may be words with both identical pronunciations and identical spellings but different meanings, such as quail (the bird) and quail (to cringe). Finally, they may be words that are spelled alike but are different in pronunciation and meaning, such as the bow of a ship and bow that shoots arrows. The first and second types are sometimes called homophones, and the second and third types are sometimes called homographs—which makes naming the second type a bit confusing. Some language scholars prefer to limit homonym to the third type.

Examples of homonym in a Sentence

The noun “bear” and the verb “bear” are homonyms.
Recent Examples on the Web On November 26th China’s e-commerce juggernaut sold HK$88bn ($11.2bn) of secondary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock symbol 9988—88 is not only a homonym for baba, but also signifies double luck. The Economist, "One company, two systems," 28 Nov. 2019 Some refashioned Pocari Sweat’s Chinese name (寶礦力) with a homonym, rebranding it as a drink of the resistance (寶抗力), for example. Mary Hui, Quartz, "A sports drink called Pocari Sweat is caught in the middle of a Hong Kong-China spat," 11 July 2019 Pearle is, after all, both her middle name and a homonym of purl, a type of knitting stitch. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Pearle Knits Is the Instagrammable Label Redefining the Tube Top," 9 July 2018 Since the judges didn't warn her that her word had a homonym and because Reagan didn't ask for the definition - a garment covering the head and neck except for parts of the face - her spelling was deemed correct after further review. CBS News, "41 finalists advance in 2018 National Spelling Bee competition," 30 May 2018 In addition to being a homonym for an oil-rich state, the Q8 is expected to showcase Audi's latest technologies. Mark Phelan, chicagotribune.com, "New luxury crossovers, SUVs headline Geneva auto show," 1 Mar. 2018 In addition to being a homonym for an oil-rich state, the Q8 is expected to showcase Audi’s latest technologies. Mark Phelan, USA TODAY, "Hottest Ferrari yet, other new car models to debut in Geneva," 26 Feb. 2018 In addition to being a homonym for an oil-rich state, the Q8 is expected to showcase Audi’s latest technologies. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, "New BMW SUV, Volvo wagon, Toyota Supra headline Geneva auto show," 24 Feb. 2018 But feminists have worked to counter censors: As the hashtag #MeToo came under fire, women started using homonym hashtags. Karen Yuan, The Atlantic, "#MeToo With Chinese Characteristics," 5 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'homonym.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of homonym

1697, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for homonym

Latin homonymum, from Greek homōnymon, from neuter of homōnymos

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Time Traveler for homonym

Time Traveler

The first known use of homonym was in 1697

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Statistics for homonym

Last Updated

14 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Homonym.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homonym. Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for homonym


How to pronounce homonym (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of homonym

: a word that is spelled and pronounced like another word but is different in meaning


hom·​onym | \ ˈhä-mə-ˌnim How to pronounce homonym (audio) , ˈhō-mə- \

Kids Definition of homonym

3 : one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning The noun “bear” and the verb “bear” are homonyms.

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More from Merriam-Webster on homonym

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with homonym

Spanish Central: Translation of homonym

Nglish: Translation of homonym for Spanish Speakers

Comments on homonym

What made you want to look up homonym? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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