When One is Different from Another
So here’s a fun English eccentricity. The humble homophone, pesky words that sound the same, with very different meanings and slightly different spellings.
We writers, no matter how lyrical our prose or cutting our critique, are capable of committing the most embarrassing mistakes sometimes. These tiny blunders often go unnoticed until it’s too late, making a mess of good writing and leaving the grammar trolls baying for blood.
As I’m an offender myself, I’m not trying to be judgmental but there is one faux pas I’m seeing more and more often. Few errors spoil a bit of excellent writing faster than tripping over common homophones. You know, those “terrible twins” (or triplets) that we were all supposed to learn about in fifth grade? Well, now they’re everywhere.
Don’t Let Them Catch You!
This tiny epidemic can seriously spoil a good read. Browsing around, looking for interesting stuff online, you’ll get smacked in the eyeballs by any one of a host of misused, misspelled words. And after a day spent trawling the internet, even perfectly good words can start looking a little strange – or is it just me?
The Achilles heel of many a writer is accepting what MS Office gives you when it auto corrects your text. As long as the word is spelled properly, “context” usually doesn’t count.
A while back, I started keeping a list of the problem words I came across most often. I’m sharing it here because maybe someone can use it as a basis for their own list of annoying homophones.
Lots of Homophones, in Alphabetical Order
Of course, it won’t help you if you make mistakes like this one on the internet, which is not a homophone;
Glutton versus Gluten (In an article debating the merits of the “glutton free” diet).
But that’s phonetics for you!
Us writers have to keep the internet honest. Here’s a FREE resource.
A: accept, except | accessary, accessory | ad, add |adieu, ado | advice, advise | affect, effect | ail, ale | air, heir | aisle, I’ll, isle | all, awl | allowed, aloud | alms, arms | altar, alter | arc, ark | aren’t, aunt | ate, eight | auger, augur | auk, orc | aural, oral | away, aweigh | axe, acts | awe, oar, or, ore | axel, axle | Aye – eye – I
B: bail, bale | bait, bate | baize, bays | bald, bawled | ball, bawl | band, banned | bard, barred | bare, bear | bark, barque | baron, barren | base, bass | bay, bey | bazaar, bizarre | be, bee | beach, beech | bean, been | beat, beet | beau, bow | beer, bier | bel, bell, belle | berry, bury | berth, birth | bight, bite, byte | billed, build | bitten, bittern | blew, blue | bloc, block | boar, bore | board, bored | boarder, border | bold, bowled | bole, bowl | boos, booze | born, borne | bough, bow | boy, buoy | brae, bray | braid, brayed | braise, brays, braze | brake, break | bread, bred | brewed, brood | brews, bruise | bridal, bridle | broach, brooch | but, butt | buy, by, bye | buyer, byre
C: calendar, calender | call, caul | canvas, canvass | carat, caret, carrot | cash, cache | cast, caste | caster, castor | caught, court | caw, core, corps | cede, seed | ceil, seal | ceiling, sealing | cell, sell | censer, censor, sensor | cent, scent, sent | cereal, serial | cession, session | cheap, cheep | check, cheque | chews, choose | choir, quire | chord, cord | cite, sight, site | clack, claque | clew, clue | climb, clime | clique, click | close, cloze, clothes | coal, kohl | coarse, course | coign, coin | colonel, kernel | complacent, complaisant | complement, compliment | coo, coup | cops, copse | council, counsel | cousin, cozen | creak, creek | crews, cruise | cue, queue | curb, kerb | currant, current | cymbol, symbol
D: dam, damn | days, daze | dear, deer | descent, dissent | desert, dessert | deviser, divisor | devise, device | dew, due | die, dye | discreet, discrete | doe, doh, dough | done, dun | douse, dowse | draft, draught | dual, duel
E: earn, urn | eery, eyrie | ewe, yew, you
F: faint, feint | fah, far | fair, fare | farther, father | fate, fête | faun, fawn | fay, fey | faze, phase | feat, feet | ferrule, ferule | few, phew | fie, phi | file, phial | find, fined | fir, fur | fizz, phiz | flair, flare | flaw, floor | flea, flee | flex, flecks | flew, flu, flue | floe, flow | flour, flower | foaled, fold | for, fore, four | foreword, forward | fort, fought | forth, fourth | foul, fowl | franc, frank | freeze, frieze | friar, fryer | furs, furze
G: gait, gate | galipot, gallipot | gallop, galop | gamble, gambol | gays, gaze | genes, jeans | gild, guild | gilt, guilt | gin, djinn | giro, gyro | gnaw, nor | gneiss, nice | gorilla, guerilla | grate, great | greave, grieve | greys, graze | grisly, grizzly | groan, grown | guessed, guest
H: hail, hale | hair, hare | hall, haul | hangar, hanger | hart, heart | haw, hoar, whore | hay, hey | heal, heel, he’ll | healed heeled | hear, here | heard, herd | he’d, heed | heroin, heroine | hew, hue | hi, high | higher, hire | him, hymn | ho, hoe | hoard, horde | hoarse, horse | holey, holy, wholly | hour, our
I: idle, idol | in, inn | indict, indite | it’s, its |immanent, imminent
J: jewel, joule
K: key, quay | knave, nave | knead, need | knew, new, gnu | knight, night | knit, nit | knob, nob | knock, nock | knot, not | know, no | knows, nose
L: laager, lager | lac, lack | lade, laid | lain, lane | lam, lamb | laps, lapse | larva, lava | lase, laze | law, lore | lay, ley | lea, lee | leach, leech | lead, led | leak, leek | lean, lien | leaver, lever | lessen, lesson | levee, levy | liar, lyre | licence, license | licker, liquor | lie, lye | lieu, loo | links, lynx | lo, low | load, lode | loan, lone | locks, lox | loop, loupe | loot, lute
M: made, maid | mail, male | main, mane | maize, maze | mall, maul | manna, manner | mantel, mantle | mare, mayor | mark, marque | marshal, martial | marten, martin | mask, masque | maw, more | me, mi | mean, mien | meat, meet, mete | medal, meddle | metal, mettle | meter, metre | might, mite | miner, minor, mynah | mind, mined | missed, mist | moat, mote | mode, mowed | moor, more | moose, mousse | morning, mourning | muscle, mussel
N: naval, navel | nay, neigh | nigh, nye | none, nun
O: od, odd | ode, owed | oh, owe | one, won
P: packed, pact | packs, pax | pail, pale | pain, pane | pair, pare, pear | palate, palette, pallet | pascal, paschal | paten, patten, pattern | patience, patients | pause, paws, pores, pours | pawn, porn | pea, pee | peace, piece | peak, peek, peke, pique | peal, peel | pearl, purl | pedal, peddle | peer, pier | pi, pie | pica, pika | place, plaice | plaintiff, plaintive | plain, plane | pleas, please | plum, plumb | pole, poll | paw/pore/pour, poor | poof, pouffe | practice, practise | praise, prays, preys | principal, principle | profit, prophet
Q: quarts, quartz | quean, queen
R: rack, wrack | rain, reign, rein | raise, rays, raze | rap, wrap | raw, roar | read, reed | read, red | real, reel | reek, wreak | rest, wrest | retch, wretch | review, revue | rheum, room | right, rite, wright, write | ring, wring | road, rode | roe, row | role, roll | roo, roux, rue | rood, rude | root, route | rose, rows | rota, rotor | rote, wrote | rough, ruff | rouse, rows | rung, wrung | rye, wry
S: saver, savour | spade, spayed | sale, sail | satire, satyr | sauce, source | saw, soar, sore | scene, seen | scull, skull | sea, see | seam, seem | sear, seer, sere | seas, sees, seize | sew, so, sow | shake, sheikh | shear, sheer | shoe, shoo | shoot, chute | sic, sick | side, sighed | sign, sine | sink, synch | slay, sleigh | sloe, slow | sole, soul | some, sum | son, sun | sonny, sunny | sort, sought | spa, spar | staid, stayed | stair, stare | stake, steak | stalk, stork | stationary, stationery | steal, steel | stile, style | storey, story | straight, strait | suit, soot | sweet, suite, suet | swat, swot
T: tacks, tax |tacked, tact | tale, tail | talk, torque | tare, tear | taught, taut, tort | tea, tee | team, teem | tear, tier | teas, tease | terce, terse | tern, turn | there, their, they’re | threw, through | throes, throws | throne, thrown | thyme, time | tic, tick | tide, tied | tire, tyre | to, too, two | toad, toed, towed | told, tolled | tole, toll | ton, tonne, tun | tor, tore | tough, tuff | troop, troupe | tuba, tuber
U: Undo – undue |
V: vain, vane, vein | vale, veil | vial, vile
W: wail, wale, whale | wain, wane | waist, waste | wait, weight | waive, wave | wall, waul | wander, wonder|war, wore | ware, wear, where | warn, worn | wart, wort | watt, what | wax, whacks | way, weigh, whey | we, wee, whee | weak, week | weary, wary | we’d, weed | weal, we’ll, wheel | wean, ween | weather, whether | weaver, weever | weir, we’re | were, whirr | wet, whet | wheald, wheeled | which, witch | whig, wig | while, wile | whine, wine | whirl, whorl | whirled, world | whit, wit | white, wight | who’s, whose | woe, whoa | wood, would
X: no x
Y: yaw, yore, your, you’re | yoke, yolk | you’ll, yule
Z: no z
Etc. – etc. – etc.
Do you know any homophones I’ve forgotten?
Are you a kindly soul, wanting to make life easier for your fellow writers, or do you simply want to strut your stuff?
Share any missing homophones with us in the comments. Let’s grow this list into a kick-a** resource.