hom·​onym ˈhä-mə-ˌnim How to pronounce homonym (audio)
grammar : homophone
the homonyms there and their
grammar : homograph
The words lead, as in the metal, and lead, as in the verb, are homonyms.
grammar : one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning (such as the noun quail and the verb quail)
biology : a taxonomic designation rejected as invalid because the identical term has been used to designate another group of the same rank compare synonym
homonymic 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 homonym in a Sentence

The noun “bear” and the verb “bear” are homonyms.
Recent Examples on the Web The last happened in 2018 when a competitor spelled a word's homonym correctly without having been given the definition or told that a homonym existed. CBS News, 2 June 2022 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, 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, 11 July 2019 Pearle is, after all, both her middle name and a homonym of purl, a type of knitting stitch. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, 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, 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, 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, 26 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, 5 Feb. 2018

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

Word History


Latin homonymum, from Greek homōnymon, from neuter of homōnymos

First Known Use

1697, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of homonym was in 1697

Dictionary Entries Near homonym

Cite this Entry

“Homonym.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homonym. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


hom·​onym ˈhäm-ə-ˌnim How to pronounce homonym (audio)
: one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning
the noun "bear" and the verb "bear" are homonyms
homonymic adjective

from Latin homonymum "homonym," derived from Greek homonymos (adjective) "having the same name," from hom-, homos "same" and onyma, onoma "name"

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