Definition of homonym in English:



  • 1Each of two or more words having the same spelling but different meanings and origins (e.g., pole and pole); a homograph.

    See also pole
    • ‘There is one obligatory element of the New Year's feast all over China, and that is a whole fish, because the Chinese phrase ‘have fish’ (you yu) is a homonym of ‘have surplus’, so eating it is supposed to augur well for the new year.’
    • ‘Rhett Miller is king of the homonym and double meaning.’
    • ‘When my first-grader Clare typed in ‘rows’ for ‘rose,’ the device did not recognize the homonym.’
    • ‘He fractured grammar to create double or triple meanings; he developed enigmas to give his readers the satisfaction of interpreting them; he used a vocabulary of homonyms and antonyms to create multiple possible meanings…’
    • ‘Much of the chatter derives from the abundance of homonyms in Chinese, where a single sound can carry many meanings.’
    • ‘The pun lost status in English, despite a wealth of homonyms.’
    • ‘Read aloud again, looking for word problems: missing words, wrong homonyms (their when you mean there), misspellings, grammatical errors, and confusing words.’
    • ‘Obviously, ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ are homonyms.’
    • ‘What exactly are the differences between synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms?’
    • ‘Still, the basic idea is sound: given that most of our misspellings are now corrected for us by computers, the only thing standing between us and perfect spelling is homonyms.’
    • ‘Though as Dave Heasman points out far too often, I still mix up homonyms.’
    • ‘Each court reporter might use different conventions to represent homonyms or other ambiguous words.’
    • ‘So much humor depends upon homonyms and creative mishearing.’
    1. 1.1 Each of two words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling (e.g., to, too, and two); a homophone.
      See also two
      , See also too
      , and See also to
      • ‘Personally, I don't mind the more obscure homonyms, but when someone mixes up ‘right’ and ‘write,’ or ‘knight’ and ‘night,’ it makes me really mad.’
      • ‘I've never been good with homophones or homonyms.’
      • ‘Homonyms can present an especially difficult problem because they sound alike, but the different spellings mean different things.’
      • ‘Actually, what's also more disturbing than misspellings is people mixing up their homonyms.’
    2. 1.2Biology A Latin name which is identical to that of a different organism, the newer of the two names being invalid.
      • ‘Official codes of nomenclature continue to enforce this rule - one name, one species - although rooting out synonyms and homonyms is a constant struggle.’
      • ‘In 1895 C.S. Sargent assigned it the name R. michauxii to correct Michaux's use of a homonym and to honor its discoverer.’
      • ‘This is clearly an error as Miller and Gurley's younger name could not have priority over Meek and Worthen's older name, unless it was a replacement name for a homonym.’


Late 17th century: via Latin from Greek homōnumon, neuter of homōnumos ‘having the same name’, from homos ‘same’ + onoma ‘name’.