“Homographs are words with the same spelling but different meanings” and they can sometimes sound different too (according to Bernard C Lamb in his book The Queen’s English). ‘Homo’ means the same and ‘graph’ means picture or drawing – to remember this, imagine the same picture or drawing.
Examples: think about the word ‘row’ – it can rhyme with ‘go’ and also with ‘cow’ as follows:
- The word row which rhymes with go – you can row with your oars as in “row row row your boat….” and line things up as in “and little maids all in a row…”
- The version or row which rhymes with cow – as in ‘they row (have a quarrel) with each other all the time’.
Other examples of homographs:
- The word wind as in “the wind blew” is spelt the same as “I need to wind up my manual clock”
- The word tear as in “I shed a tear today” is spelt the same as “I tear up my bank statements after five years”
As a writer, you have to be clear which meaning you are using otherwise it could get very confusing.
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Bernard C. Lamb The Queen’s English (2010), UK