A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as "rose" (flower) and "rose" (past tense of "rise"), or differently, such as "carat", "caret", and "carrot", or "two" and "too", or "know" and "no". A homophone is a type of homonym, although sometimes "homonym" is used to refer only to homophones that have the same spelling but different meanings. The term may also be used to apply to units shorter than words, such as letters or groups of letters that are pronounced the same as another letter or group of letters.

The prefix, "homo" means the "same". "Phone" means "sound". "Graph" in homograph means "writing".

Homophones are often used to create puns and to deceive the reader (as in crossword puzzles) or to suggest multiple meanings. The last usage is common in poetry and creative literature. An example of this is seen in Dylan Thomas's radio play "Under Milk Wood": "The shops in mourning" where "mourning" can be heard as "mourning" or "morning". Another vivid example is Thomas Hood's use of 'birth' & 'berth' and "told' & 'toll'd' (tolled) in his poem "Faithless Sally Brown":

:His death, which happen'd in his berth,:At forty-odd befell::They went and told the sexton, and:The sexton toll'd the bell.

Homophones in the context of word games are also known as "oronyms". This term was coined by Gyles Brandreth and first published in his book "The Joy of Lex" (1980), and it was used in the BBC programme "Never Mind the Full Stops", which also featured Brandreth as a guest.

Examples of "oronyms" (which may only be true homophones in certain dialects of English) include :'mint spy' vs 'mince pie'; :'ice cream' vs. 'I scream':'stuffy nose' vs. 'stuff he knows';:'euthanasia' vs. 'youth in Asia';:'i.c.u.' vs. 'I see you'.:'depend' vs. 'deep end':'the sky' vs. 'this guy':'four candles' vs. 'fork handles':'insinuate' vs. 'in sin you ate':'Sand which is there' vs. Sandwiches there'Two oronyms appear in "Ana's Song (Open Fire)" by Silverchair. While they initially sound like mondegreens, reading the lyrics will reveal that this is not the case. The first line of the song, "Please die Ana, for as long as you're here we're not", also sounds very much like "Please Diana, ...", which confuses people into believing that "Ana" is a person, when really it is just a nickname for anorexia. The next verse is "And Ana wrecks your life, like an anorexia life", which is another oronym that proves "ana's" real meaning.

American comedian Jeff Foxworthy frequently uses oronyms in his Appalachian routine. Notable examples include, "Initiate: My wife ate two sandwiches, "initiate" (and then she ate) a bag o' tater chips." and "Mayonnaise: "Mayonnaise" (Man, there is) a lot of people here tonight."

Mad Gab is a team oronym solving game.

Use in psychological research


Pseudo-homophones are non-words that are phonetically identical to a word. Pseudo-homophone pairs are pairs of phonetically identical letter strings where one string is a word and the other is a non-word. For example, groan/grone and crane/crain are pseudo-homophone pairs, whereas plane/plain is a homophone pair since both letter strings are recognised words. Both types of pairs are used in lexical decision tasks to investigate word recognition.

Use as ambiguous information

Homophones where one spelling is of a threatening nature and one is not ("e.g." slay/sleigh, war/wore) have been used in studies of anxiety as a test of cognitive models that those with high anxiety tend to interpret ambiguous information in a threatening manner. See Mogg K, Bradley BP, Miller T, Potts H, Glenwright J, Kentish J (1994). Interpretation of homophones related to threat: Anxiety or response bias effects? "Cognitive Therapy and Research", 18(5), 461-77.


Homophones also appear sometimes in dreams; see dream pun.

External links

* [http://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html Alan Cooper's Homonym List (actually homophones, not homonyms, as he himself explains)]
* [http://assortedmaterial.googlepages.com/EnglishHomonymsHomophones.html Homonyms and Homophones] - a basic but useful list
*cite web |url=http://www.bifroest.demon.co.uk/misc/homophones-list.html |title=List of 441 British-English homophones |work=Ian Miller |accessmonthday=February 15 |accessyear=2008



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  • homophone — [ ɔmɔfɔn ] adj. et n. m. • 1827; gr. homophônos, de phônê « 2. son » ♦ Ling. Se dit de lettres, de mots qui ont la même prononciation. f et ph[ f ], eau et haut [ o ] sont homophones. N. m. Homophones homographes ou non. ⇒ homonyme. On s exagère… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Homophone — Hom o*phone, n. [Cf. F. homophone. See {Homophonous}.] 1. A letter or character which expresses a like sound with another. Gliddon. [1913 Webster] 2. A word having the same sound as another, but differing from it in meaning and usually in… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • homophone — (n.) 1843, from the adjective homophone (1620s), from Gk. homos same (see HOMO (Cf. homo ) (1)) + phone sound (see FAME (Cf. fame)). Related: Homophonic …   Etymology dictionary

  • homophone — ► NOUN ▪ each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling (e.g. new and knew). ORIGIN from Greek ph n sound, voice …   English terms dictionary

  • homophone — [häm′ə fōn΄] n. [< Gr homophōnos: see HOMOPHONIC] 1. any of two or more letters or groups of letters representing the same speech sound (Ex.: c in civil and s in song) 2. HOMONYM (sense 1) homophonous [hō mäf′ə nəs, həmäf′ə nəs] adj …   English World dictionary

  • Homophone — In diesem Artikel oder Abschnitt fehlen folgende wichtige Informationen: Der Artikel erschöpft sich weitgehend in der Aufzählung von Beispielen für Homophone bzw. für Sprachen, die an Homophonen besonders reich sind. Er erklärt nicht, warum… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Homophone — Homophonie (linguistique) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Homophonie. onymie Acronymie   Rétro acronymie   Acronymie récursive …   Wikipédia en Français

  • homophone — (o mo fo n ) adj. 1°   Terme de grammaire. Mots homophones, mots qui se prononcent de même. 2°   Hiéroglyphe homophone, hiéroglyphe représentant le son ou l articulation qui commence le mot par lequel l objet figuré est dénommé dans la langue… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • homophone — UK [ˈhɒməfəʊn] / US [ˈhɑməˌfoʊn] / US [ˈhoʊməˌfoʊn] noun [countable] Word forms homophone : singular homophone plural homophones linguistics a word that sounds the same as another word but has its own spelling, meaning, and origin …   English dictionary

  • homophone — /hom euh fohn , hoh meuh /, n. 1. Phonet. a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air. 2. a written element that represents the same spoken unit as another, as ks, a… …   Universalium

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