We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Homograph?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Homograph means “written the same,” and homographs are words with the same spelling, but either a different meaning or a different pronunciation, or both. Bear the noun referring to an animal and bear meaning “to carry” are examples of a set of homographs that have the same spelling but a different meaning. Read, which serves as both the present tense of a verb when it is pronounced /REED/ and the past tense form when it is pronounced /RED/, is an example of a homograph with a different meaning and a different pronunciation in each instance.

Don’t confuse homograph with homophone, which means “sounds the same.” Even though some homographs — those in the first group above — are also homophones, not all homographs are. The special name for a word that is both a homograph and a homophone is homonym.

It’s also important to distinguish homographs, which are separate and distinct words with different origins, from words with multiple meanings all rooted in the same origin. For example, peer meaning “look intently” comes from the Middle English piren and peren, short for aperen, and it is related to appear. Peer meaning “a person of equal standing,” comes from through Middle English from the Old French per meaning “equal,” and the Latin par. Yes, they look the same; no, they’re not related. So these words are homographs, not multiple meaning words.

An example of a multiple meaning word is say. Say is a

• transitive verb, for example, “They say hi.”
• a noun, for example, “I want to have my say.”
• an adverb, for example, “Take a piece of fruit, say an orange.”
• an interjection, for example, “Say! What’s that?”

All of these forms and meanings are related, so these are manifestations of one word, not homographs.

There is another, more complicated case, because a homograph can also have homophones. For example, air meaning “odorless gasses we breathe” is a homograph of air meaning “to broadcast,” but also has the homophones: are, Ayr, e’er, ere, err, and heir.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for WiseGeek, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.