We have all been ambushed by them at one time or another.
In all the written works we have individually accomplished in our lives, there have undoubtedly been times when we have had to give sudden pause, as a word awaits our prosing fingers … only to be stalled by a moment of confusion. We find ourselves asking, “Wait, which one is it?” Boar, or bore? Bye, or buy? Site or sight? There or their?
That’s right … the dreaded homonyms: words that sound the same, but are spelt differently, and have different meanings. The English language is riddled with them; far too many to make a full, descriptive list on this blog.
Although, as an interesting fact, some homonyms may not actually be as such for some people, as they are for others. Particular accents enable a differentiation to occur, and thus certain words end up avoiding the category of homonym. It all depends on how the vowels are distinguished in various dialects.
Even still, everyone knows how tricky some of these ‘double-up’ words can be, not to mention frustrating for those who are simply trying to correctly structure any sort of literary effort. And to make matters all the more complex, homonyms are not limited to just pairs. You can find them in threes, and even fours. It is definitely a multifarious mission to undertake, if one is determined to correctly identify all homonyms and their different meanings, and even then, an experienced writer can easily slip up and make a mistake.
Learning to master homonyms is an enduring endeavour for any writer, although gaining knowledge of this part of literacy structure is very important, especially if one wishes to become accomplished in any professional field of the literary realm.
To help bring a portion of enlightenment to this slightly arduous, often confusing, part of the written word realm, I have added a list of some common homonyms, and their differentiating definitions.
Affect (verb) – to exert influence upon (noun) – a feeling or emotion
Effect (noun) – the result of an action or process
Accept (verb) – take or agree to
Except (preposition) – other than; apart from (verb) – to exclude, leave out
Bore (verb1) – to pierce, to make a hole (verb2) – to weary by dullness
Boar (noun) – a male pig
Boor (noun) – a rude, clumsy, ill-refined person
Carat (noun) – a measure of the weight of precious stones
Caret (noun) – the typographical symbol (^) to show where something is to be inserted
Carrot (noun) – nutritious, orange to yellow root used as a vegetable
Karat (noun) – a unit for measuring the fineness of gold
Cent (noun) – a common monetary unit worth one hundredth of a standard unit
Scent (noun) – a distinctive smell, aroma
Sent (verb) – past tense of ‘send’ – to cause, permit, or enable to go
Dew (noun) – condensed moisture formed in drops on any cool surface
Do (verb) – to perform, to execute, to accomplish
Due (noun) – something that is owed, or naturally belongs to someone
For (preposition) – with the object or purpose of (conjunction) – seeing that; since
Fore (adjective) – situated at or toward the front (noun) – the forepart of anything; front
Four (noun) – a cardinal number, three plus one
Formally (adverb) – in a formal, befitting manner
Formerly (adverb) – previous in time or order; in time past
Hostel (noun) – a building providing supervised accommodation
Hostile (adjective) – characterized by enmity, ill will; very unfriendly or antagonistic
Paw (noun) – the foot of an animal with claws (verb) – to touch roughly
Poor (adjective1) – having little or no means of support (adjective2) – deficient, inadequate
Pore (noun) – a small aperture in skin (verb) – go over carefully
Pour (verb) – be or make flowing or falling
Sear (verb) – to burn or char the surface of
Seer (noun1) – a person who prophesies future events (noun2) – wise person or sage
Sere (adjective) – dry; withered
Pair (noun) – two identical, similar, or corresponding things (verb) – separate into two
Pare (verb) – to cut off the outer coating, layer, or part of
Pear (noun) – the edible fruit, typically rounded but growing smaller toward the stem
Peak (noun) – the pointed top of anything
Peek (verb) – to look or glance furtively, especially from a concealed location
Pique (verb1) – to affect with sharp irritation or resentment (verb 2) – to excite
Rain (noun) – water that condenses from the atmosphere and falls to earth in drops
Reign (verb) – to have control, rule, or influence of any kind
Rein (noun) – a leather strap, usually fastened to a bridle (verb) to curb; restrain; control
Their (pronoun) – possessive case of ‘they’, used as an attributive adjective, before a noun
There (adverb) – in or at that place; opposed to here
They’re (contraction of) They are
Right (adjective) – in accordance with what is good, or just (adverb) – immediately; promptly
Rite (noun) – a formal or ceremonial act
Wright (noun) – a person skilled in art; skilled worker
Write (verb) – to express or communicate in writing
Ware (noun) – any intangible, saleable items, as services or products of creativity
Where (adverb) – in or at what place? (conjunction) – in or at what place, part, or point
Wear (verb1) – to be clothed in (verb2) – corrode; use
Weather (noun) – atmospheric conditions (verb) – endure; withstand
Wether (noun) – a castrated male sheep
Whether (conjunction) – meaning ‘if’ or ‘either’
There are certainly many more than what is listed here, but I hope that what I have displayed will be of some aid to you fellow creative writers out there!