Homonym is a word which is pronounced the same as another word. They may differ from each other in origin, spelling or meaning. For example the words son and sun sound the same but they have different meanings and are spelled differently as in “The old man’s son wakes up every morning with the rising Sun.” or “The dog ate eight pieces of bread from his bowl.” Homonym is a word that includes both homophones and homographs. Hence a word can be either a homophone or a homograph but by definition it is essentially a homonym. Homonyms are confusing as they are closely related to homophones and homographs.
Homonyms are derived from the Greek word “homonumos” which mean “same name”. Homophones are derived from the Greek name homo phone which means “same sound”. The word homonymy describes the state of words as homonyms. Several linguistic concepts related to homonymy include homonyms, homographs, homophones, heteronym, heterograph, polyseme and capitonym. One needs to learn the correct usage of homonyms in order to avoid any kind of communicative conflicts.
There are three types of homonyms –words that sound and look the same as in the word bank which may mean a slope or a place where money transactions take place. Homonyms also include homophones and homographs. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but do not look alike or spelled differently and have a different meaning as in the words sail and sale. Homographs are words having the same spelling but have different meanings, pronounced differently and maybe have different origins as in the word ‘tear’. In the word hide, the pronunciation may be the same but it means differently when the reference is to the hide as the skin of an animal or the verb meaning to remain concealed.
Homonyms which are spelled the same but mean differently include words such as bark which may mean the sound made by a dog or it may refer to the outer layer of the tree. The word bank may refer to the edge of a river or it may refer to a financial institution. The word bow may mean bowing your head while it could also mean tying a ribbon in a bow. The word stalk may mean a part of a plant or the verb stalk may refer to the act of following a person.
The English language is abound with Homonyms having different spellings and meanings. The word pair means two or more while the word pear is a fruit. Hare refers to a rabbit while hair refers to the growth of hair on the head. Fair refers to a carnival having various rides and food, whereas the word fare denotes the money one has to pay to ride a taxi, train or bus. Sail refers to a piece of canvas used on boats and ship while the term sale indicates trading objects for money. One can be a number and won means having achieved victory.