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A word with the same spelling but different in meaning?

Words that have the same spelling, and the same pronunciation, but different meanings are called homonyms. Examples are beat (rhythm) and beat (to whip, as eggs). But this term is also (confusingly) used for words that simply have the same sound (pronunciation), such as eight and ate. These are more correctly called homophones (sound alike words).

If they have the same spelling, but different pronunciations, they are homographs. (written the same) such as sow (female pig) and sow (to seed), or the tenses read (pronounced reed) and read (pronounced red). Homographs require a context clue to determine how they are pronounced.

There are a great number of homophones in English.
(see the related question for examples)


Autoantonyms (contranyms) are words that can have opposite meanings depending on their context (e.g. fast can mean "moving quickly" or "fixed firmly in place

Homonyms, homophones, and homographs
Think of it like this:
HomoNYM is the same (homo) in name (nym, here meaning spelling).
HomoPHONE sounds the same, as in the word "telephone."
HomoGRAPH means written (graph) the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (went up).

(for more information, see the Related Links below this box)

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