I was talking with a friend about writing recently and homonyms came up in the conversation. Later on, as I was thinking about the conversation, I thought, “Oh shoot, I should have used the word homophone.”
But then I started to ponder the differences between homophones and homonyms, as well as homographs, and realized that I needed to do some research, because I was feeling a little iffy about my own personal knowledge.
Homonyms are words that are spelled the same way, but have different meanings. Example: Hail (to greet) and hail (precipitation).
Homographs are spelled the same way, but have different meanings. Examples: bass (fish) vs. bass (instrument), does (form of the verb to do) vs. does (a group of female deer).
Here’s a chart that shows the differences among the three:
These are easy to mix up, but not difficult to remember once you know.
Hail (1), as a verb: 1) To cheer, salute, or greet. All of Virginia hailed the UVA Men’s basketball team after their ACC tournament win. 2) To call out to. I hailed a cab.
Hail (1), as a noun: 1) A shout to get attention or a called greeting. Norm answered the crowd’s hail when he entered the bar.
Hail (2), as a verb: To pour down hail; to pour down or shower like hail.
Hail (2), as a noun: Precipitation in the form of pellets or balls of ice.
Then there’s hale:
Hale, as an adjective: Healthy, robust, vigorous. He was a hale and hearty man.
Hale, as a verb: To compel (someone) to go; to haul; to pull. The sheriff haled the man into court.
Both are pronounced the same way, but they mean totally different things.
A Segway is the mode of transportation seen on the right.
Segue, however, is both a noun and verb, both with similar meanings (neither of which have to do with transportation.
Segue as a noun means “an uninterrupted transition made between one musical section or composition and another; any smooth, uninterrupted transition from one thing to another.”
Segue as a verb means “to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption: The conversation segued from travel anecdotes to food.”
(Definitions from Dictionary.com.)