Difference Wiki

Homophones vs. Homonyms: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 22, 2023
Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings, like "new" and "knew." Homonyms are words that sound alike and are spelled the same but have different meanings, like "bat" (animal) and "bat" (sports equipment).

Key Differences

Homophones are a category of words that sound the same when pronounced but differ in meaning and often in spelling. For example, "to," "too," and "two" are homophones; they share the same pronunciation but have different meanings and spellings. Homonyms, however, are words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. An example is the word "bat," which can mean a piece of sports equipment or a nocturnal flying mammal.
The confusion between homophones arises primarily in writing since they sound identical when spoken. Misunderstandings in communication usually occur due to incorrect spelling, as in mixing up "break" (to destroy) and "brake" (a device for stopping a vehicle). In contrast, homonyms create confusion in both spoken and written forms, as the context is key to determining their meaning. For example, "bank" can refer to a financial institution or the side of a river.
Homophones are interesting in language learning and teaching because they highlight the peculiarities of English spelling and pronunciation. Their study helps in understanding phonetics and orthography. Homonyms, on the other hand, demonstrate the richness and complexity of the English language, showing how a single word form can have multiple meanings based on context, such as "light," which can mean not heavy or a source of illumination.
In English language teaching, homophones are often used to teach vocabulary and spelling, emphasizing the importance of context and spelling for accurate communication. Homonyms are used to enhance understanding of context, syntax, and semantics, as they require learners to interpret meaning based on sentence structure or surrounding words.
Examples of common homophones include "flower" and "flour," "sea" and "see," and "right" and "write." These pairs sound identical but have unrelated meanings and different spellings. In contrast, homonyms like "lead" (to guide) and "lead" (a metal) or "row" (a line) and "row" (a quarrel) are spelled the same but carry different meanings, demonstrating the multifaceted nature of English words.

Comparison Chart







Confusion in

Both speaking and writing


"here" and "hear"
"bark" (of a tree) and "bark" (dog sound)

Homophones and Homonyms Definitions


Identically pronounced words with distinct meanings.
Write your name right on this line.


Words with the same form, different contexts.
The rock band played near the band of gold miners.


Words that sound alike but are written differently.
Their team will be there tomorrow.


Same spelling, pronunciation, different interpretations.
The tire was too tired to move.


Words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings.
I knew you would come to the new store.


Identical in spelling and sound but differing in meaning.
She left the leaves on the ground.


Words that share pronunciation but differ in spelling.
They sailed the sea to see new lands.


Single form with multiple meanings.
The cricket jumped over the cricket pitch.


Phonetically similar words, distinct in meaning.
The knight knew nothing about night.


Words spelled and pronounced the same but with different meanings.
He couldn't bear to bear the weight.


One of two or more words, such as night and knight, that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, origin, and sometimes spelling.


One of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning, such as bank (embankment) and bank (place where money is kept).


Plural of homophone


A word used to designate several different things.


A namesake.


(Biology) A taxonomic name identical to one previously applied to a different species or other taxon and therefore unacceptable in its new use.


Plural of homonym


Can homonyms be nouns and verbs?

Yes, many homonyms function as multiple parts of speech.

Are all homophones also homonyms?

No, homophones are different in spelling, while homonyms are the same.

Do homonyms always have only two meanings?

No, some homonyms have more than two meanings.

Are homophones common in English?

Yes, English has many homophones due to its varied etymology.

Is teaching homophones important for spelling?

Yes, it helps in understanding correct spelling based on context.

Are there homophones in other languages?

Yes, many languages have homophones.

Can homophones be a challenge for learners?

Yes, especially in spelling and vocabulary acquisition.

Are homonyms used in puns?

Yes, homonyms are often used for wordplay in puns.

Can a word be both a homophone and a homonym?

Yes, some words can be both, depending on context and meaning.

Do homophones exist in sign language?

Sign languages have their own forms of homophones.

Are new homophones/homonyms still emerging?

Language evolves, so new homophones and homonyms can emerge.

Can homophones be confusing in oral communication?

Less so than in writing, as context usually clarifies meaning.

Do homonyms help in learning multiple meanings of words?

Yes, they can expand vocabulary understanding.

Do homophones have synonyms?

Yes, like all words, homophones can have synonyms.

Can homonyms cause misunderstandings?

Yes, especially if the context is not clear.

Do homonyms have the same origin?

Not always; some have different etymological origins.

Are homophones always different parts of speech?

Not necessarily; they can be the same part of speech but with different meanings.

Can homonyms be different grammatical forms?

Yes, some homonyms are different forms of the same word.

Do homonyms play a role in poetry?

Yes, poets often use homonyms to create multiple layers of meaning.

Are homophones used in jokes?

Yes, homophones are a common element in wordplay humor.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons