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A homophone is a word that sounds exactly like another. 'Meat', referring to flesh, sounds exactly like 'meet', meaning 'come together'.

When homophones have the same spelling, they are also homonyms: the modal verb 'will' as in 'will they ever come?' sounds and also looks exactly like the noun 'will' as in 'having a strong will' or 'last will and testament'.

Words with the same spelling are called homographs, but they are not all homophones: some have different pronunciations, and are heteronyms, as for example the verb 'to tear', meaning 'to rip', and 'tear', as in 'tearful'.[1] Thus homonyms are homophonic homographs.

Some examples in English

  • C's/seas/sees/seise/seize

Some words sound the same in some forms of speech but not others. For example:

In most American speech:

  • balm/bomb

In the speech of many Americans:

  • rider/writer

In most of England:

  • awe/oar/or (emphatic pronunciation)/ore
  • pause/paws/pores/pours

In various parts of England:

  • fin/thin/thing
  • hill/ill
  • paw/poor/pore/pour
  • put/putt
  • Shaw/shore/sure
  • tong/tongue


  1. In the notation used at English spellings, téar rip and têar cry (cf. tén and têen)