The Heteronym Homepage (2023)

Welcometo the Heteronym Homepage!
This homepage is about heteronyms, a type of word.See what it's all about!You are visitor number The Heteronym Homepage (1)

Page revised on 1/1/99

Page created on 6/1/96

What are heteronyms?

Heteronyms are words that are spelledidentically but have different meanings when pronounced differently.For example:

Lead, pronounced LEED, means to guide. However, lead, pronouncedLED, means a metallic element.

Compare heteronyms to homographs, homophones,and homonyms.

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but differin meaning, derivation, or pronunciation. Homophones arewords that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, derivation,or spelling. Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronouncedthe same but have different meanings. There is overlap among thesecategories.

Heteronyms are specific types of homographs in which thedifferent pronunciations are associated with different meanings.Many heteronyms are the result of one pronunciation being a verband another being a noun.

Well, let's see what we have!

Our lists of heteronyms are shown below. We are limiting ourselvesto words commonly used in the English language. Some of our heteronymshave completely different meanings while others have somewhatrelated meanings. (We also list words that have nearly the same meanings.)We also are including heteronyms in which at least one of thewords is a foreign word (as long as it is commonly used in English).

Not every meaning of every word is given. The numbers after thedefinitions indicate the source of the heteronym; see the Acknowledgments.

As of 1/1/99, we have begun listing words only, without pronunciationsand meanings, and the acknowledgment immediately follows.


Affect ehFEKT-to change; AFFekt- a person's feelings or emotion (1)

Alternate ALternit-the next choice; ALternait- switch back and forth (9)

Are AHR-plural present tense of "to be"; AIR- 100 squaremeters (1/100th of a hectare) [although may also be pronouncedAHR] (15)

Ares AIRS-100 square meter units [plural]; AIReez- Greek god of war[capitalized] (15)

AttributeahTRIByoot- to consider resulting from; AHtribyoot-a characteristic of someone (12)

August AUgust-month [capitalized]; auGUST- important, eminent (9)

Axes AKsiz-more than one ax or axe; AKseez- the plural of axis (13)

Bass BASE-a string instrument; (rhymeswith mass)- a fish (1)

Bow BAU-to lower one's head or the front of a ship; BOH- used toshoot arrows (7)

Bowed BAU-d-to bend over; BOH-d- bent (12)

Buffet BUFFet-to pound or bump; booFAY- place where you serve yourself(9)

Close CLOZE-to shut; CLOS- near (9)

CombinekomBYNE- put together; KOMbyne- a threshing machine(1)

ConductKONduckt- behavior; kunDUCKT- to lead (see thisheteronym below) (12)

Conflict kunFLIKT-to act against; KAHNflict- a fight or disagreement(1)

ConsoleKAHNsole- an upright case; kunSOLE- to comfort (2)

ContentKAHNtent- meaning; kunTENT- satisfied (1)

ContestkunTEST- to argue; KAHNtest- a match of skill (1)

ContractCONtract- an agreement; conTRACT- to shrink or toagree on a project (2)

Convert conVERT-to change one's belief; CONvert- one whose belief was changed(11)

Converse KAHNvers-the opposite; kunVERS- to talk (1c)

ConvictkunVIKT- to find guilty; KAHNvikt- a prisoner (1)

Crooked KROOKt-to bend your neck; KROOK-ed- having a curve (3)

DeliberatediLIBerit- carefully considered; diLIBerATE- toconsider (12)

Desert dihZURT-to leave ; DEZert- arid region (18, and below)

Digest DYEjest-collection of published material; dieJEST- absorb nutrients(6)

Do DOO-to accomplish; DOE- a musical note (1)

Does DUZ-performs; DOZE- more than one female deer (1)

Dove DUV-a bird; DOEV- jumped off (1)

Drawer DROR-the compartment you pull out from the dresser; DRAWer-one who draws (1j)

Excuse EKskyooz-to let someone off; EKskyoos- a reason or explanation (17)

House HAUS-a building that serves as living quarters; HOWZ- to providewith living quarters (10)

Incense INsens-burnt aromatic; inSENS- to make angry (9)

Intern INtern-a physician in training; inTERN- confine to prescribedarea (14)

InvalidinVALLid- not valid; INvallid- an ill person (1)

LaminateLAMinate- to construct by adding layers; LAMinit[although both pronunciations are listed]- the cover itself (1)

Lather (rhymeswith rather)- foam or suds; (rhymeswith bath fur)- a worker who installs lath (lattice work)(15)

Lead LEED-to guide; LED- a metallic element (1)

Minute MINNit-60 seconds; myNOOT- tiny (1)

ModerateMODerit- keeping within reason; MODerATE- to presideover (1)

Mow MOH-to cut grass; MAU- a pile of hay (17)

Multiply MULLtihPLIE-multiply two numbers; MULLtihplee- in a multiple manner(15)

Number NUMber-one, two, three …; NUMMER- more numb [many dictionariesdo not list this use, which suggests that "more numb"is preferred; however, the listed use is given in The AmericanHeritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Electronicversion.] (18)

Nun NUN-women in religious order; NOON- 14th letter in Hebrew alphabet(9)

Object ubJEKT-to complain; AHBjekt- a thing (1c)

Pasty PAstee-like glue; PASStee- a meat pie (1)

Pate PAIT-a bald head; paTAY- a minced food; PAHT- a porcelainpaste [diacritics in pâté and pâte don't count!](1)

PerfectPERfekt- exactly correct; perFEKT- to make correct(17)

Periodic PEEReeODDik-occasional; PUREeyeODDik- an iodine compound (15)

Permit perMIT-to allow some event to occur; PERmit [although both pronunciationsare listed]- a document giving permission (8)

Polish POElish-from Poland; PAHLish- shine [capitalization doesn't count!](4)

Present PREZent-a gift; preeSENT- to give a talk (9)

Primer PRIHMer-an elementary book; PRYmer- the preparatory coat of paint(1c, 12)

ProducePROdoos- vegetables; proDOOS- bring forth (1)

Project proJEKT-to show a movie; PRAHjekt- atask (1)

Pussy PUHSee-having pus; POOHSee; a kitten (18)

Raven RAYven-black bird; RAVen- hungry (9)

Rebel REBBell-a resister; rihBELL- to resist (2)

Record RECKord-a list; reKORD- to write down (1)

Recreationrek-ree-Ashun- pastime; REEcreeAshun- remake (also,recreate) (12)

Refuse reFUSE-to deny; REFFyoos- garbage (1)

Relay reeLAY-to put it down again, such as a carpet; REElay- a raceby teams; rihLAY- to pass along, such as information [Oneof our dictionaries gives these pronunciations, but does not distinguishmeanings among the latter two. The pronunciation may vary amongindividuals.] (12)

Rerun reRUN-to race again or to repeat a show on television; RErun- a repeatedTV show (12)

Reside:reZIDE- to stay put; RE-SYD- [Slang] to change places (changeteams) [usu. hyphenated as re-side] (20) [N.B.:This is also a antagonym!] {X}

Resign reZYN-to quit; reSYN- to sign again (e.g., a contract) [usu.hyphenated as re-sign] (20) [N.B.: This word is also anantagonym!]

Resume reeZOOM-to restart; REHZoomay- a document of experience [also résumé;diacritics don't count!] (1)

Row ROH-a line; ROUW- a fight (1)

Sake SAHkey-alcoholic drink; SAYK- a purpose (5)

Secrete seeKREET-to discharge; sehKRET- an armored skullcap [secrète,diacritics don't count!]

Secreted seeKREETed-having put out; SEEkrehted- placed out of sight (9) [N.B.:This word is also an antagonym!]

SeparateSEPerATE- to divide into groups; SEPret- not joinedtogether (17)

Sewer SOwer-one who sews; SOOwer- place for human waste (9)

Slough SLUFF-the outer layer of skin of a snake; [rhymes with OW!]-a hole of deep mud or mire; SLOO- a marshy pond (19)

Sow SOUW-a pig; SO- to plant seed (1)

SubjectSUBjekt- the theme; subJEKT- to force upon someone (12)

Tear TARE-to rip; TEER- fluid in eye (1)

Wind WHINEd-to coil up; WINd- the blowing air (1)

Wound WOOND-to injure; WOWND- coiled up (1)

Heteronymic Sentences

Mary & Harry Baldwin of San Diego (12) are collectors of heteronyms.When they find a word, they compose a sentence that uses the differentmeanings. For example:

  • When the brush fire was close, the authorities hadto close the road.
  • I subject my friends to pain when I discuss the subjectof my operation.

The Baldwins found an article in the Smithsonian Magazine (vol.19, p. 244, November 1988) by Felicia Lamport entitled "Thebass swam around the bass drum on the ocean floor" in whichheteronyms are the subject. One nice example:"She wished she could desert him in the desert."Although not known for word games, the website of the Smithsonian Magazineis provided here for your convenience. (Note: The referenced articleis not available through the Smithsonian website but there is a link for it here.)

Heteronyms with highly relatedmeanings

Some heteronyms are so closely related that we have decided togive them a separate list. For example:

LiveLIHV- [verb] to be alive; LIEV- [adjective] alive[The two meanings of this heteronym couldn't be much closer toeach other!] (16)

Others include:

Access (some people pronounce the "a" differentlyfor the noun and verb) (1)

Read (9,17)

Use (17)

Acknowledgments for submissionsbefore 1/1/99

Jim Ellis started the obsession with heteronyms and Jonathan Ellisdevised these web pages. Thanks to Karen Jordan for telling usthat the word "heteronym" describes these words.

The first to submit the word to us was:

  1. The Ellis family, Ann Arbor, MI (most are Jim's; c=Charlie's;j=Jonathan)
  2. Michel Dumas, London, Ontario, Canada
  3. Jon Vahsholtz and his father; see belowfor his page
  4. Maria Simonte, Ann Arbor, MI who works for the University of Michigan Alumni Association
  5. c/o Karen Jordan, Ann Arbor, MI
  6. Susan Goldstein, New York, NY
  7. Michael Williams, London, England
  8. Mark L. Irons
  9. Gerald Schafer, Walla Walla College, CollegePlace, WA (
  10. Phyllis Hall, Nipomo, CA
  11. Bill Momsen
  12. Mary and Harry Baldwin, San Diego, CA
  13. A. David Chan, Lakewood, CA
  14. Chris Alguire
  15. Mr. V wishes to remain anonymous
  16. John R MacMillan
  17. Tim L. Crawford
  18. Dana Albert, San Francisco, CA
  19. Bruce A. Bishop
  20. Rex Stocklin, Marina del Rey, CA

Go to the heteronym list.

You may not believe this, but….

After we posted this web page, we found others on the webwho also collect heteronyms! Here are the links we have found…so far!

Jon Vahsholtz's The Heteronym Page

Mark Brader's Homograph list

Stephen Pickles' Heteronyms

Still with the word craze?

Check out our Antagonym Homepage!

© Ellis


What are the 20 examples of heteronyms? ›

Elementary School Heteronym Word Lists:
  • List 1: bass, live, present, read, tear, bass, present, read, tear, live.
  • List 2: bow, lead, produce, record, wind, lead, produce, record, wind, bow.
  • List 3: close, Mobile, progress, refill, use, close, mobile, progress, refill, use.

What is a heteronym with examples? ›

Heteronyms are pairs of words that have the same spellings but have different sounds and definitions. Some common heteronyms are the words lead, alternate, and bow. These words might be confused with homonyms, which are words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.

What are two words spelled the same but pronounced differently? ›

A heteronym (also known as a heterophone) is a word that has a different pronunciation and meaning from another word but the same spelling.

What are words spelled the same but different pronunciations? ›

Heteronyms are words that have the same spelling but different pronunciation.

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