200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

A List of Easily Confused Words With Practice Exercises

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A bare bear. GeoStock/Getty Images

Homonyms are two or more words that have the same sound or spelling but differ in meaning. Homophones—which means "same sounds" in Latin—are two or more words, such as knew and new or meat and meet, that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, origin, and often spelling. Homographs, meanwhile, are words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation, such as the verb bear (to carry or endure) and the noun bear (the animal with a shaggy coat).

Words that fall under any of these three categories often confuse readers and writers alike. But they need not perplex you: Understanding the meaning of these three grammatical terms and, especially, being able to recognize them can help clear up any confusion. A list of some of the most common homonyms, homophones, and homographs can help any writer use these words correctly and any reader or listener recognize them when they occur.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs 

Here is a listing of some the most common homonyms, homophones, and homographs. The first column contains homonyms in alphabetical order, while the second and third columns list the corresponding homonym, homophone, or homograph as applicable.

accept - take in except - other than  
ad - advertisement add - join, combine  
advice - guidance advise - recommend  
aid - assist, assistance aide - one who gives assistance  
ail - to suffer poor health ale - a beverage  
air - atmosphere ere - before heir - one who inherits property
aisle - a passage I'll - contraction of I will isle - island
allusion - an indirect reference illusion - false appearance  
altar - table in a church alter - to change  
ate - past tense of eat eight - the number 8  
bail - to clear water bail - release of a prisoner bale - a large bundle
band - a ring, something that binds band - a group banned - prohibited
bare - uncovered bear - large animal bear - support, yield
bases - starting points bases - four stations on a baseball field basis - a basic principle
beat - to strike, overcome beat - exhausted beet - a plant with red roots
blew - past tense of blow blue - the color  
bread - baked food item bred - produced  
buy - purchase by - near, through bye - goodbye
capital - punishable by death capital - chief city capitol - building where legislature meets
ceiling - top of a room sealing - setting, fastening  
cell - compartment sell - vend  
cent - penny coin scent - an odor sent - past tense of send
cereal - breakfast food serial - sequential  
chews - gnaws with teeth choose - to select  
Chile- country in South America chili - bean stew chilly - frosty
chord - musical tone cord - rope  
cite - quote site - location sight - view
close - opposite of open clothes - clothing  
coarse - rough course - path, procedure  
complement – enhance; go together compliment - praise  
conduct - behavior conduct - to lead  
council - committee counsel - guidance  
creak - squeak creek - stream of water  
crews - gangs cruise - ride on a boat  
days - plural of day daze - stun  
dear - darling deer- woodland animal  
desert - to abandon desert - dry land dessert - after-dinner treat
dew - morning mist do - operate due - payable
die - cease to exist dye - color  
discreet - tactful discrete - distinct  
doe - female deer dough - uncooked bread  
dual - double duel - battle  
elicit - draw out illicit - illegal  
eminent - distinguished imminent - soon  
ewe - female sheep you - second-person personal pronoun  
eye - sight organ I - first-person personal pronoun  
facts - true things fax - a document transmitted via telephone  
fair - equal fare - price  
fairy - elflike creature with wings ferry - boat  
faze - impact phase - stage  
feat - achievement feet - plural of foot  
find - to discover fined - charged a penalty  
fir - type of tree fur - animal hair  
flea - small biting insect flee - run  
flew - did fly flu - illness  
flour - powdery, ground up grain flower - blooming plant  
for - on behalf of fore - front four - three plus one
forth - onward fourth - number four  
foreword - introduction to a book forward - advancing  
gene - a chromosome jean - fabric; pants  
gorilla - big ape guerrilla - warrior  
grease - fat Greece - country in Europe  
groan - moan grown - form of grow  
hair - head covering hare - rabbit-like animal  
hall - passageway haul - tow  
halve - cut in two parts have - possess  
hay - animal food hey - interjection to get attention  
heal - mend heel - back of foot  
hear - to listen here - at this place  
hi - hello high - up far  
hoarse - croaky horse - riding animal  
hole - opening whole - entire  
holey - full of holes holy - divine wholly - entirely
hoarse - rough voice horse - animal  
hour - sixty minutes our - belonging to us  
knead - massage need - desire  
knew - did know new - not old  
knight - feudal horseman night - evening  
knot - tied rope not - negative  
know - have knowledge no - opposite of yes  
lead - metal led - was the leader  
leased - past tense of lease least - the minimum  
lessen - make smaller lesson - class  
loan - lend lone - solitary  
made - did make maid - servant  
mail - postage male - opposite of female  
material - matter materiel - supplies for an organization, particularly the military
marry - to wed merry - very happy  
meat - animal protein meet - encounter  
mince - to chop finely mints - type of sweet  
morning - a.m. mourning - remember the dead  
none - not any nun - woman who takes special vows  
oar - boat paddle or - otherwise ore - mineral
oh - expression of surprise or awe owe - be obligated  
one - single won - did win  
overdo - do too much overdue - past due date  
pail - bucket pale - not bright  
pain - hurt pane - window glass  
peace - calm piece - segment  
peak – highest point peek - glance  
patience - being willing to wait patients - person treated in a hospital or by a doctor  
pear - a type of fruit pair - two (usually matching)  
plain - ordinary plane - flight machine plane; flat surface  
pole - post poll - survey  
poor - not rich pour - make flow  
pray - implore God prey - quarry  
principal - most important principle - belief  
rain – water from sky rein - bridle  
rap - tap wrap - drape around  
read - past tense of the verb to read red - color  
real - factual reel - roll  
right - correct; not left write - scribble  
ring - encircle wring - squeeze  
road - street rode - past tense of ride  
role - function roll - rotate  
rose - flower rows - lines  
sail - move by wind power sale - bargain price  
scene - landscape seen - viewed  
sea - ocean segment see - observe with eyes  
seam - joining edge seem - appear  
sew - connect with thread so - as a result sow - plant
soar - ascend sore - hurt place  
sole - single soul - essence  
son - male child sun - the star that lights the solar system  
some - a few sum - amount  
stair - step stare - to look at steadily  
steal - swipe steel - alloy  
suite - large room in a hotel sweet - the opposite of sour  
tail - animal’s appendage tale - story  
their - belonging to them there - at that place they’re - they are
threw - past tense of throw through - passing from one place to another  
to - toward too - also two - the number 2
toe - foot appendage tow - pull along  
vary - differ very - wail - howl  
wail - howl whale - huge sea mammal  
waist - area below ribs waste - squander  
wait – kill time weight - measurable load  
war - battle wore - did wear  
warn - caution worn - used  
way - path weigh - measure mass  
we - us wee - tiny  
weak - not strong week - seven days  
wear - to don attire where - question word  
weather - climate whether - if  
which - that witch - sorcerer  
wood - material coming from trees would - conditional auxiliary  
your - belonging to you you’re - you are  

Practice Using Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Complete each of the following sentences by filling in the blank with the correct word. You'll find the answers at the end of the exercise. To heighten interest, all of the sentences are quotes from various authors' writings in books and magazine articles published over the years. Feel free to use the previous table to help you if you get stumped.

  1. “He simply sat down on the ledge and forgot everything _____ [accept or except] the marvelous mystery.”
    — Lawrence Sargent Hall
  2. "I live in the Oakland Hills in a tiny house on a street so windy you can’t drive more than ten miles per hour. I rented it because the _____ [ad or add] said this: 'Small house in the trees with a garden and a fireplace. Dogs welcome, of course.'"
    — Pam Houston
  3. "Francis wondered what _____ [advice or advise] a psychiatrist would have for him."
    — John Cheever
  4. "The _____ [aid or aide] gets out of the way, picking her skirt out of the rubble of children at her feet."
    — Rosellen Brown
  5. "He seemed to want to recapture the cosseted feeling he'd had when he'd been sick as a child and she would serve him flat ginger _____ [ail or ale], and toast soaked in cream, and play endless card games with him, using his blanket-covered legs as a table."
    — Alice Elliott Dark
  6. "He sat down and leaned forward, pulling the chair's rear legs into the _____ [air, ere, or heir] so that the waitress could get by."
    — Stanley Elkins
  7. "[T]he stewardess was moving down the _____ [aisle, I'll, or isle], like a trained nurse taking temperatures in a hospital ward, to see that they were all properly strapped in for the take-off."
    — Martha Gellhorn
  8. "Mrs. Parmenter laughed at his _____ [allusion or illusion] to their summer at Mrs. Sterrett's, in Rome, and gave him her coat to hold."
    — Willa Cather
  9. "In the long years between, she had fashioned many fine dresses—gowned gay girls for their conquests and robed fair brides for the _____ [altar or alter]."
    — Mary Lerner
  10. "On a Saturday morning soon after he came to live with her, he turned over her garbage while she was at the grocery store and _____ [ate or eight] rancid bacon drippings out of a small Crisco can."
    — Pam Durban
  11. "The barn was bigger than a church, and the fall's fresh hay _____ [bails or bales] were stacked to the roof in the side mows."
    — John Updike
  12. "Her two spare dresses were gone, her comb was gone, her checkered coat was gone, and so was the mauve hair-_____ [band or banned] with a mauve bow that had been her hat."
    — Vladimir Nabokov
  13. "Without the shelter of those trees, there is a great exposure—back yards, clotheslines, woodpiles, patchy sheds and barns and privies—all _____ [bare or bear], exposed, provisional looking."
    — Alice Munro
  14. "This was the time when outfields were larger than they are today and well-hit balls would roll for a long time, giving runners ample time to round the _____ [bases or basis] for a home run."
    — Deidre Silva and Jackie Koney
  15. "The conductor had his knotted signal cord to pull, and the motorman _____ [beat or beet] the foot gong with his mad heel."
    — Saul Bellow
  16. "Nancy held the cup to her mouth and _____ [blew or blue] into the cup."
    — William Faulkner
  17. "A pigeon landed nearby. It hopped on its little red feet and pecked into something that might have been a dirty piece of stale _____ [bread or bred] or dried mud."
    — Isaac Bashevis Singer
  18. "He was wearing a new hat of a pretty biscuit shade, for it never occurred to him to _____ [buy, by, or bye] anything of a practical color; he had put it on for the first time and the rain was spoiling it."
    — Katherine Anne Porter

Answers to the Exercise

1. except 2. ad 3. advice 4. aide 5. ale 6. air 7. aisle 8. allusion 9. altar 10. ate 11. bales 12. band 13. bare 14. bases 15. beat 16. blew  17. bread 18. buy

Sources

  • Hall, Lawrence Sargent. "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960.
  • Houston, Pam. "Waltzing the Cat." Washington Square Press, 1999, New York.
  • Cheever, John. "The Country Husband." The New Yorker, 1955.
  • Brown, Rosellen. "How to Win." The Massachusetts Review, 1975.
  • Dark, Alice Elliott. "In the Gloaming." The New Yorker. 1994.
  • Elkins, Stanley. "Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers." Perspective, 1962.
  • Gellhorn, Martha. "Miami-New York." The Atlantic Monthly, 1948.
  • Cather, Willa. "Double Birthday." "Uncle Valentine and Other Stories." University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 1986.
  • Lerner, Mary. "Little Selves." The Atlantic Monthly, 1915.
  • Durban, Pam. "Soon." The Southern Review, 1997.
  • Updike, John. "My Father's Tears and Other Stories." Knopf, 2009, New York.
  • Nabokov, Vladimir "That in Aleppo Once..." The Atlantic Monthly, 1944.
  • Munro, Alice. "Meneseteung." The New Yorker, 1989.
  • Silva, Deidre, and Koney, Jackie. "It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls' Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball." Skyhorse, 2008, New York.
  • Bellow, Saul. "A Silver Dish." The New Yorker, 1979.
  • Faulkner, William. "That Evening Sun Go Down." The American Mercury, 1931.
  • Singer, Isaac Bashevis. "The Key." "A Friend of Kafka." Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979, New York.
  • Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft." The Gyroscope, 1930.
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Nordquist, Richard. "200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2022, thoughtco.com/homonyms-homophones-and-homographs-a-b-1692660. Nordquist, Richard. (2022, August 29). 200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/homonyms-homophones-and-homographs-a-b-1692660 Nordquist, Richard. "200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/homonyms-homophones-and-homographs-a-b-1692660 (accessed October 5, 2022).