Do you know what Heteronyms are?

English is a tricky language to learn. It is full of confusing and contradictory rules that are difficult to follow, especially for a new learner.

One of the very confusing yet amusing elements of the English language is known as heteronym.

Let’s explore heteronyms with some of their examples.

In phonology and grammar, heteronyms are spelled the same but have different meanings. Mostly the pronunciations are a bit different too.

Two words can be heteronyms but not homophones. There is a technical difference between them.

Let’s take an example, “”row”” (use oars) and “”row”” (argument) are heteronyms because they employ different pronunciations, while “”mean”” (signify), “”mean”” (rude), and “”mean”” (average) are not heteronyms.

Because they are pronounced the same. These words are called homonyms.

Most heteronyms are identified in pairs. There are three different words being heteronyms like the above example, but this is very rare.

Homophones are words that are pronounced precisely similar, but they have different meanings or spellings.

The differences in pronunciation show different definitions or meanings of the same word.

Heteronyms are generally noun-verb pairs, and the words are pronounced differently.

Heteronyms Examples

Some of the commonly used words are listed below. You can go through them and see if you know about Heteronyms.

Also, in some pairs, words have entirely different meanings, while others have implications that both are somewhat related to each other.

  • Affect – to touch someone’s feelings / causing emotions or desires
  • Alternate – when something occurs, in turn, one after the other/different choice or second option.
  • Attribute – associate something to be caused by / characteristic trait or quality
  • Axes – plural of ax (tool) / plural of ‘axis’ (reference line)
  • Bass – stringed musical instrument/fish species
  • Bow – a tool used to shoot an arrow/action of bending the upper part of the body as a sign of respect or greeting someone.
  • Bowed – past tense of bow / twisted or turned
  • Buffet – to strike as wind or waves in a continuous form/meal of several dishes where diners self serve
  • Close – to cover an opening / being nearby.
  • Conduct – to guide or lead / how a person acts or behaves
  • Conflict – being incompatible or at a variance / a severe argument or disagreement
  • Console – to comfort someone / an electronic unit with a list of controls
  • Desert – leaving or abandoning / a dry, barren, and sandy area of land
  • Digest – breaking down of food in the stomach / a summary of information
  • Dove – past tense of the word “dive” / a type of white bird
  • House – providing accommodations/home or abode
  • Incense – to make angry or irritated / substance that is burned for its fragrance
  • Intern – to capture someone as a prisoner / a student or trainee who is working to gain professional experience
  • Lead – to show or guide someone through the way / a type of metal (Pb)
  • Moderate – making or becoming less extreme/average amount
  • Number – comparative form of “”numb”” (adjective) / an arithmetical or numerical value
  • Object – to act or express disagreement or disapproval / materialistic thing
  • Permit – giving authorization or consent / an official document that gives permission to someone
  • Polish – rubbing the surface of something to make it smooth and shiny / anyone who belong to Poland
  • Record-setting down in writing or other permanent forms for future reference/something kept in writing permanently
  • Refuse – indicating or showing unwillingness to do something / of no use or garbage
  • Separate – cause to move/viewed as a unit apart
  • Sewer – an underground pipeline for carrying away wastewater / a person who sews
  • Subject – causing or forcing to undergo/a person or thing that is being discussed or talked about
  • Tear – to rip or pull apart / a drop of water secreted by the eyes
  • Wind – twisting or coiling something around a core/the natural movement of air

You see how cool heteronyms are.

Now see, below are three sentences. Try reading them and pronouncing the heteronyms.

  • I love to read stories so much that I read two books last weekend.
  • After reading the 300-number list repeatedly, her brain became the number.
  • When the wildfire got very close, the fire department had to close the road.

Hence, the next time you use heteronyms in a sentence, read it carefully, as the sentence’s meaning depends on pronunciations.

Thanks for reading!

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