Homonym

In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which sound alike or are spelled alike, but have different meanings. A more restrictive definition sees homonyms as words that are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling)[1] – that is to say they have identical pronunciation and spelling, whilst maintaining different meanings. The relationship between a set of homonyms is called homonymy. Examples of homonyms are the pair stalk (part of a plant) and stalk (follow/harass a person) and the pair left (past tense of leave) and left (opposite of right). A distinction is sometimes made between true homonyms, which are unrelated in origin, such as skate (glide on ice) and skate (the fish), and polysemous homonyms, or polysemes, which have a shared origin, such as mouth (of a river) and mouth (of an animal).[2][3]

In non-technical contexts, the term "homonym" may be used (somewhat confusingly) to refer to words that are either homographs or homophones.[1] The words row (propel with oars) and row (argument) and row (a linear arrangement of seating) are considered homographs, while the words read (peruse) and reed (waterside plant) would be considered homophones; under this looser definition, both groups of words represent groups of homonyms.

The adjective homonymous can additionally be used wherever two items share the same name,[4][5] independent of how close they are or aren't related in terms of their meaning or etymology.

Etymology[]

The word homonym comes from the Greek ὁμώνυμος (homonymos), meaning "having the same name",[6] which is the conjunction of ὁμός (homos), "common, same, similar "[7] and ὄνομα (onoma) meaning "name".[8] Thus, it refers to two or more distinct concepts sharing the "same name" or signifier. Note: for the h sound, see rough breathing and smooth breathing.

Related terms[]

Term Meaning Spelling Pronunciation
Homonym Different Same Same
Homograph Different Same (No requirement)
Homophone Different (No requirement) Same
Heteronym Different Same Different
Heterograph Different Different Same
Polyseme Different but related Same (No requirement)
Oronym Different Different Same to varying degree
Capitonym Different when
capitalized
Same except for
capitalization
(No requirement)
Synonym Same Different Different
Antonym Opposite Different Different
Synophone Different Different (No requirement)
Euler diagram showing the relationships between homonyms (between blue and green) and related linguistic concepts.

Several similar linguistic concepts are related to homonymy. These include:

Further examples[]

A further example of a homonym, which is both a homophone and a homograph, is fluke. Fluke can mean:

These meanings represent at least three etymologically separate lexemes, but share the one form, fluke.*[10] Note that fluke is also a capitonym, in that Fluke Corporation (commonly referred to as simply "Fluke") is a manufacturer of industrial testing equipment.

Similarly, a river bank, a savings bank, a bank of switches, and a bank shot in the game of pool share a common spelling and pronunciation, but differ in meaning.

The words bow and bough are examples where there are two meanings associated with a single pronunciation and spelling (the weapon and the knot); two meanings with two different pronunciations (the knot and the act of bending at the waist), and two distinct meanings sharing the same sound but different spellings (bow, the act of bending at the waist, and bough, the branch of a tree). In addition, it has several related but distinct meanings – a bent line is sometimes called a 'bowed' line, reflecting its similarity to the weapon. Even according to the most restrictive definitions, various pairs of sounds and meanings of bow, Bow and bough are homonyms, homographs, homophones, heteronyms, heterographs, capitonyms and are polysemous.

The words there, their, and they're are examples of three words that are of a singular pronunciation (in American English), have different spellings and vastly different meanings. These three words are commonly misused (or misspelled if you want to look at it that way) in American English.

Homonyms in historical linguistics[]

Homonymy can lead to communicative conflicts and thus trigger lexical (onomasiological) change.[11] This is known as homonymic conflict.

See also[]

Notes[]

  1. ^ Some sources restrict the term "homograph" to words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations. See, for example, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems, p. 215 (Wiley-Blackwell, 1999) and The Encyclopædia Britannica (14th Edition) (entry for "homograph").
  2. ^ Some sources restrict the term "homophone" to words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings. See, for example, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems, p. 202 (Wiley-Blackwell, 1999) and The Encyclopædia Britannica (14th Edition) (entry for "homograph").
  3. ^ Some sources do not require that heteronyms have different pronunciations. See, for example, the archived Encarta dictionary entry (which states that heteronyms "often" differ in pronunciation) and the "Fun with Words" website (which states that heteronyms "sometimes" have different pronunciations).

References[]

  1. ^ a b homonym, Random House Unabridged Dictionary at dictionary.com
  2. ^ "Linguistics 201: Study Sheet for Semantics". Pandora.cii.wwu.edu. Retrieved 2013-04-23.
  3. ^ Semantics: a coursebook, p. 123, James R. Hurford and Brendan Heasley, Cambridge University Press, 1983
  4. ^ "the definition of homonymous". www.dictionary.com.
  5. ^ "homonymous — definition, examples, related words and more at Wordnik". Wordnik.com.
  6. ^ ὁμώνυμος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  7. ^ ὁμός, King George V Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicons, on Perseus Digital Library
  8. ^ ὄνομα, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  9. ^ Gnanasundaram, D.; Venkatesh, L. (2006). Synophones & Homophones. Sura Books. ISBN 9788172543167.
  10. ^ "The Online Etymological Dictionary". Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  11. ^ On this phenomenon see Williams, Edna R. (1944), The Conflict of Homonyms in English, [Yale Studies in English 100], New Haven: Yale University Press, Grzega, Joachim (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie, Heidelberg: Winter, p. 216ff., and Grzega, Joachim (2001d), “Über Homonymenkonflikt als Auslöser von Wortuntergang”, in: Grzega, Joachim (2001c), Sprachwissenschaft ohne Fachchinesisch: 7 aktuelle Studien für alle Sprachinteressierten, Aachen: Shaker, p. 81-98.