Grammar & Word Confusions: Heteronym

Posted December 28, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

A type of linguistic word play, a heteronym is a subset of homograph, which is itself a subset of homonym.

If you break heteronym apart:

Hetero- means different, other

-onym means word, name

This means a heteronym is spelled the same but has a different sound and meaning. It may also comprise one or more words (one word is the most common).

The primary concern for a writer is not the spelling as they are similar but the meaning. It is possible to choose a word with one meaning while thinking it means something else. Confusing your readers can lead to bad reviews and dropping book sales.

Click here for a quick look at the differences between them -nyms, -graphs, -phone, and -semys.

Grammar Explanations and Word Confusions sometimes…

…involve the same words as it does here in this post on “Heteronym”. Whereas a Word Confusion is a pair (or more) of words that are confused spelling-wise with each other, a Grammar Explanation may jump in because of the confusion involved in how the words are used within the structural rules and principles of English.

Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if you have an idea or suggestion that makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone…as well as questions on issues with which you are frustrated. If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page. And consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Part of Speech: Semantics, Word Play, Figure of Speech
Definition: Words that are spelled alike, but pronounced differently and have different meanings. A type of homograph, and, yes, they are also considered homonyms.

A.k.a., heterophone

Heteronym Pronunciation Meaning
lead /lĕd/

You can lead a horse to water…
lead /liːd/

A metal used in plumbing pipes, crystal gas, paint, etc.
Polish /ˈpōliSH/

He is of Polish extraction.
polish /ˈpäliSH/

Did you polish the table yesterday?
produce prəˈd(y)ōōs/

A factory will produce goods.
produce ˈpräd(y)ōōs,

The produce department at the grocery store has a sale on oranges.
refuse /riˈfyōōz/

I won’t do it. I refuse.
refuse /ˈrefˌyōōs/

Get that refuse off the table and into the garbage can.
tear /te(ə)r/

I got a rip in my jeans.
tear /tɛ(ə)r/

Don’t cry. I hate women’s tears.
wound /wōōnd/

He put a bandage on the wound.
wound wound

He wound his way through the maze.

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