I mentioned to my husband (a native speaker of English) that I was going to write about homographs in my next blog post and his comment was “What are those?”.

Good question. Homographs are words that have the same spelling but different meaning and sometimes origin and pronunciation.
Homographs are not to be confused with homophones which are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings.

When I explained this to my husband, his next question was: “Why is the English Language so complicated?!!” This coming from a native speaker of English!

I found this list of 12 homographs from an excellent Facebook Page called English is Great and it immediately gave me the idea for this post. What I thought I’d do is to show you how each of these words are used in a sentence and also how they are pronounced if the pronunciation is different.


1. Close
a) Shut : Did you close the windows before leaving the house?
b) Near: The post office is close to the bank in the main town. 

2. Bow
a) Type of knot: She always wraps her presents with colourful bows /bəʊz/
b) To make a forward movement with the top part of your body: Japanese people always bow /baʊ/ to show respect.

3. Bat
a) in baseball or cricket: Tom has a strange way of holding his cricket bat.
b) an animal: We often see bats in our garden in the early evening.

4. Minute
a) tiny: The chances of success were minute /maɪnju:t/
b) unit of time: I will be with you in just a minute /mɪnɪt/

5. Ball
a) sphere: We love ball games.
b) a dance: At university, there was always a Summer Ball.

6. Fly
a) move through the air: I love to watch the birds fly from tree to tree.
b) an insect: I hate it when a fly lands in my soup!

7. Left
a) direction: When you get to the end of the road, turn left.
b) past tense of leave: She left the office at 5pm. NB: In this example, “left” doesn’t mean “went”. That is a mistake on the image. It should say “departed” past tense of the verb “depart”.

8. Pupil
a) part of the eye: Simon has very large pupils.
b) student in a school: Jessica is the star pupil in her drama class.

9. Sewer
a) drain: There is an extensive sewer /su:ə(r)/ system under the city of London.
b) someone who sews: Alice is a good sewer /səʊə(r)/. NB: This meaning is not commonly used in English. We refer to a person who sews as either a seamstress (female) or tailor (female and male)

10. Wound
a) past tense of to wind /waɪnd/: Ben wound /waʊnd/ the tape up after he had finished with it.
b) to injure or an injury: Three soldiers were wounded /wu:ndəd/  in the attack./ The wound /wu:nd/ in my leg is taking a long time to heal.

11. Fair
a) just: I think that the boss was very fair in the way he handled the dispute between the two sides.
b) exhibition: There’s an arts and crafts fair this weekend. Would you like to go?

12. Fan
a) an admirer: I am a huge fan of Woody Allen’s films.
b) a cooling device: Can you switch off the fan, please? I’m really cold.


There are plenty more homographs to choose from. Can you think of others?

My thanks to English is Great for this wonderful resource.
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Ciao for now