Humanities › English Flew, Flu, and Flue Words That Sound the Same but Have Different Meanings Share Flipboard Email Print Ger Bosma/Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated October 23, 2019 The words flew, flu, and flue are homophones: they sound the same but their meanings are different. Definitions Flew is the simple past form of the verb fly, which means to move through the air, to travel by aircraft, or to move quickly or suddenly.The noun flu (a shortened form of influenza) refers to a contagious viral infection.The noun flue refers to a duct or channel in a chimney or in any enclosed passageway. Examples Wire, briar, limber, lockThree geese in a flock.One flew east, one flew west,One flew over the cuckoo's nest.(Children's nursery rhyme, the source of the title for Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1962)"The greatest aerialist of all time was a Mexican, Alfredo Cordona. In 1930, after years of practice, Cordona achieved what to the circus world had been an impossibility--no less than a triple somersault! It is estimated that to achieve that feat, he flew through the air at sixty miles per hour."(Richard Lederer, The Word Circus: A Letter-Perfect Book. Merriam-Webster, 1998)Millions are at risk of going without the flu vaccine this year."Although the media called the 1918 pandemic the 'Spanish Flu'—because about 80 percent of the Spanish population caught the flu, and it was widely reported in the Spanish press—the actual source of the pandemic is unknown."(Joan R. Callahan, Emerging Biological Threats. ABC-CLIO, 2010) Customers have been told that expensive flue work is required to bring their homes up to modern standards."The stove was plugged into the flue of the marble fireplace, and there were parquet floors and Axminster carpets and cranberry-colored tufted Victorian upholstery, and a kind of Chinese étagère, inside a cabinet, lined with mirrors and containing silver pitchers, trophies won by Skoglund cows, fancy sugar tongs and cut-glass pitchers and goblets."(Saul Bellow, "A Silver Dish." The New Yorker, 1979) Flew Out vs Flied Out "[In the game of baseball,] when a batter has hit a fly ball which is then caught, the past tense of his action is 'flied out.' The only time 'flew out' would be correct is if the batter dropped his bat, flapped his arms, and soared out of the stadium, thereby earning himself the frothiest head in the Guinness Book of World Records."(William Safire, On Language. Avon Books, 1981) Practice (a) "He was a big, raw man, with too much strength, whose delight in winter was to hunt the sea ducks that _____ in to feed by the outer ledges, bare at low tide."(Lawrence Sargent Hall, "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960)(b) If you have a working chimney, you should have the _____ checked regularly by a professional.(c) About every 30 years, there is a major change in the genetics of the _____ virus. Answers to Practice Exercises (a) "He was a big, raw man, with too much strength, whose delight in winter was to hunt the sea ducks that flew in to feed by the outer ledges, bare at low tide."(Lawrence Sargent Hall, "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960)(b) If you have a working chimney, you should have the flue checked regularly by a professional.(c) About every 30 years, there is a major change in the genetics of the flu virus.