Speaking of groups (see “Birds of a feather” below), there are a number of words that relate to a group of related words that deal with other words that are related in some distinct but different manner. Confused? Read on and all shall be revealed.
heteronym n. a word that is spelled the same as another but has a completely different pronunciation and definition.
homograph n. a word that has the same spelling as another but differs in its meaning and origin, and is sometimes pronounced differently.
homonym n. a word that is spelled and pronounced the same as another but has an entirely different meaning.
homophone n. a word that is pronounced the same as another and can be spelled the same or differently, but has a different meaning.
homealone n. a movie that was much better than the three sequels that followed. (Just making sure that you’re paying attention.)
So, let’s review. A homonym is always a homograph and a heteronym is too, and a homophone can be a homograph if the two words in question are spelled alike. Likewise, a homonym can also be a homophone if the two words are spelled alike, but a heteronym is never a homophone because they have different pronunciations. And just why is it pronunciation and not pronounciation? And why is it that sequels are almost never better than the first movie?
Heteronyms are probably the rarest of all the classes of words defined above. Can you think of any? Here’s one: lead, as in “lead an army into battle,” and lead, as in “don’t eat paint containing lead.” You should probably just stay away from eating paint altogether. Homonyms are easy to think of as there are literally thousands of examples. There’s bear (to carry), and bear (the kind that bite). Homophones (when spelled differently) are rarer than homonyms (which are always spelled the same) but less rare than heteronyms. Bare and bear, and air and heir come to mind. Led and lead (the element) also work.
Still confused? Don’t worry. There’s no test.