ho·​mo·​phone ˈhä-mə-ˌfōn How to pronounce homophone (audio)
grammar : one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (such as the words to, too, and two)
: a character or group of characters pronounced the same as another character or group
homophonous adjective

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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 homophone in a Sentence

“To,” “too,” and “two” are homophones.
Recent Examples on the Web Except, in the codex, many of these homophones were based on Nahuatl words, requiring knowledge of the language to decipher them. Carolina A. Miranda, Los Angeles Times, 4 Nov. 2023 Now, here’s a smattering of homophones more crowded than triplets: oar/o’er/or/ore (4), air/ere/err/heir (4), and ewes/u’s/use/yews/youse (5). Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Sep. 2023 However, ocean is not one of the homophones (and for good reason: the word does not have any homophones). Deb Amlen, New York Times, 21 Aug. 2023 Every word in this sentence is a homophone, a word that sounds like another word but is spelled differently. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 22 July 2023 That’s where the puzzle element could come in: Some categories might be defined by their use of wordplay — palindromes, homophones, adding or dropping letters and words — rather than the literal meanings of the words on the cards. Wyna Liu, New York Times, 26 June 2023 In Mandarin, four is a homophone with death. cleveland, 15 Jan. 2021 Back on our coast, my mother became particularly attentive to a Chinese superstition that pears couldn’t be shared between people, because fen li, to split a pear, is a homophone for the characters of separation. Belinda Huijuan Tang, Vogue, 5 May 2022 For Lunar New Year, Chinese people use this homophone phenomenon to attach symbolic significance to food. Michelle Shen, USA TODAY, 2 Feb. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'homophone.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


International Scientific Vocabulary

First Known Use

1843, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of homophone was in 1843

Dictionary Entries Near homophone

Cite this Entry

“Homophone.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homophone. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ho·​mo·​phone ˈhäm-ə-ˌfōn How to pronounce homophone (audio)
: one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning, origin, or spelling
"to," "too," and "two" are homophones
homophonous adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on homophone

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