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.

Example Sentences

“To,” “too,” and “two” are homophones.
Recent Examples on the Web 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 And remember: The greatest homophone ever is Champagne and sham pain. Marc Bona, cleveland, 14 Dec. 2021 And speech is so full of homophones that comprehension always depends on context. Wade Roush, Scientific American, 1 May 2020 Because Mandarin has so many homophones, typing became an inefficient exercise in word selection. Mara Hvistendahl, Wired, 18 May 2020 Due to the prevalence of space-saving techniques in tweets, and the commonality of casual language, nearly all grammar rules were ignored and only three rules were kept as follows: spelling, homophone swap and incorrect multi-word phrase. Marina Di Marzo, CNN, 3 Nov. 2019 What3words removed any hyphenated words, curse words, and homophones. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 4 Sep. 2019 The term plays on the multiple homophones for the word zung, which can mean China, an ending, or clock. Mary Hui, Quartz, 20 June 2019 See More

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

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 29 Nov. 2022.

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

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