Spanish Homophones and Homographs

Avoid Confusion Among Words That Sound or Look Alike

Gran Bazaar for lesson on Spanish homophones
El Gran Bazar de Estambul. (Istanbul's Grand Bazaar.).

Iker Merodio/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Spanish has far fewer homophones — different words that are pronounced the same although they may be spelled differently — than does English. But Spanish homophones and homographs (two different words that are spelled the same, which in Spanish but not necessarily English means they also are pronounced the same) do exist, and it is helpful to learn them if you hope to spell correctly.

Homophones and Spelling

Some of the Spanish homophone pairs are spelled alike, except that one of the words uses an accent to distinguish it from the other. For example, the definite article el, which usually means "the," and the pronoun él, which usually means "he" or "him," are written alike except for the accent. There are also homophone pairs that exist because of a silent h or because certain letters or letter combinations are pronounced alike.

Below are most of the common homographs and homophones of Spanish and their definitions. Definitions given are not the only ones possible.

An asterisk before a word pair indicates that the words sound alike in some regions but not all. Most often, this occurs because some letters, such as the z are pronounced differently in Spain than in most of Latin America.

Most of the word pairs where the two words are closely related but are distinguished in usage by an orthographic accent are not included in the list. Among them are cual/cuál, como/cómo, este/éste, aquel/aquél, cuanto/cuánto, donde/dónde, and quien/quién.

Spanish Homophones and Homographs

  • a (first letter of the alphabet), a (to), ha (conjugated form of haber)
  • ama, amo (owner, master/mistress), ama, amo (conjugated forms of amar, to love)
  • * arrollo (conjugated form of arrollar, to roll up), arroyo (stream)
  • * asar (to roast), azar (chance, fate)
  • * Asia (Asia), hacia (toward)
  • asta (mast), hasta (until)
  • baile (dance), baile (type of judge)
  • barón (baron), varón (man)
  • basta (enough), basta (coarse), vasta (vast)
  • basto (coarse), vasto (vast)
  • bazar (bazaar), vasar (kitchen shelf)
  • be (phonetic spelling of the letter b), ve (phonetic spelling of the letter v)
  • bello (beautiful), vello (bird down)
  • bienes (property), vienes (conjugated form of venir, to come)
  • bis (encore), vis (force)
  • calle (street), calle (conjugated form of callar, to silence)
  • * calló (conjugated form of callar, to silence), cayó (conjugated form of caer, to fall)
  • * casa (house), caza (conjugated form of cazar, to hunt)
  • * cazo (saucepan), cazo (conjugated form of cazar, to hunt)
  • * ce (phonetic spelling of the letter c), se (reflexive pronoun), (conjugated form of saber, to know)
  • * cebo (bait), sebo (fat)
  • * cegar (to blind), segar (to cut off)
  • * cepa (vine), sepa (conjugated form of saber, to know)
  • * cerrar (to close), serrar (to saw)
  • * cesión (cession), sesión (meeting)
  • * cesto (basket), sexto (sixth)
  • * cien (hundred), sien (temple of the head)
  • * ciento (hundred), siento (conjugated form of sentir, to feel)
  • * cima (summit), sima (chasm)
  • * cocer (to cook), coser (to sew)
  • copa (cup), copa (conjugated form of copar, to win)
  • de (of, from), de (phonetic spelling of the letter d), (conjugated form of dar, to give)
  • el (the), él (he, him, it)
  • errar (to make a mistake), herrar (to put horseshoes on)
  • ese (that), ese (phonetic spelling of the letter s), ése (that)
  • flamenco (Flemish, a dance), flamenco (flamingo)
  • fui, fuiste, fue, etc. (conjugated forms of ser, to be), fui, fuiste, fue, etc. (conjugated forms of ir, to go)
  • grabar (to record), gravar (to worsen)
  • * halla (conjugated form of hallar, to find), haya (conjugated form of haber, to have)
  • * has (conjugated form of haber, to have), haz (conjugated form of hacer, to do)
  • hierba or yerba (herb), hierva (conjugated form of hervir, to boil)
  • hierro (iron), yerro (mistake)
  • hojear (to leaf through), ojear (to look at)
  • hola (hello), ola (wave)
  • honda (deep), honda (sling), onda (wave)
  • hora (hour), ora (conjugated form of orar, to pray), ora (correlative conjunction usually translated as "now")
  • * hoya (hole in ground), olla (cooking pot)
  • * hozar (to move dirt around with one's snout), osar (to dare)
  • huno (Hunnish), uno (one)
  • huso (spindle), uso (utilization)
  • la (the, her, it), la (note of the musical scale)
  • * lisa (smooth), liza (battle)
  • mal (bad), mall (shopping mall)
  • mas (but), más (more)
  • * masa (mass), maza (club used as weapon)
  • * mesa (table), meza (conjugated form of mecer, to rock)
  • mi (my), mi (note of the musical scale), (me)
  • mora (Moorish), mora (blackberry)
  • o (letter of the alphabet), o (or)
  • oro (gold), oro (conjugated form of orar, to pray)
  • papa (potato), Papa (pope)
  • * pollo (chicken), poyo (stone bench)
  • polo (pole as of a magnet or planet), polo (polo)
  • * poso (sediment), pozo (well, shaft)
  • puya (goad), puya (puya, a type of plant found primarily in the Andes)
  • que (who, that), qué (what, how)
  • * rallar (to grate), rayar (to make lines on)
  • * rasa (conjugated form of rasar, to skim), raza (race or ethnicity)
  • rebelarse (to rebel), revelarse (to reveal oneself)
  • recabar (to ask for), recavar (to dig again)
  • sabia (wise female), savia (vitality)
  • sol (sun, unit of Peruvian currency), sol (note of the musical scale)
  • solo (alone), sólo (only)
  • si (if), (yes)
  • * sumo (supreme), zumo (juice)
  • * tasa (rate), taza (cup)
  • te (you), te (phonetic spelling of the letter t), (tea)
  • ti (you), ti (note of the musical scale)
  • tu (your), (you)
  • tubo (pipe), tuvo (conjugated form of tener, to have)
  • vino (wine), vino (conjugated form of venir, to come)

Why Do Homophones Exist?

Most homophones came about because separate words coincidentally arrived at having the same pronunciation. An example can be seen with flamenco. The word referring to the dance is related to the English words "Flanders" and "Flemish," presumably because the dance came to be associated with that part of Europe. Flamenco when referring to flamingos, however, is related to the English word "flame" (flama in Spanish) because of the bird's bright colors.

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Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Homophones and Homographs." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Spanish Homophones and Homographs. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Spanish Homophones and Homographs." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).