It’s time for some more fun with confusing English words! So far, I’ve shared a list of 25 commonly confused words and phrases and a list of 20 English words that change in meaning when pronounced differently. Continuing on that line, today’s post focuses on homonyms (also called homophones): words that sound the same but that have different spellings and meanings. Homonyms are one of the most confusing types of words for new English speakers to learn, and while my 25 words post already includes some common examples such as “your/you’re” and “their/there/they’re”, there are still plenty of examples of like-sounding words that warrant some attention.
So just for fun, here are 20 sets of homonyms that you should look out for while reading or writing in English. Enjoy!
2) Capital/Capitol – A “capital” is the most important city of a region. “Capital” also refers to wealth or uppercase letters. A “capitol” is a state legislature building in the United States, while the “Capitol” is the U.S. Congress building in Washington D.C.
3) Click/Clique – A “click” is a short, sharp sound. A “clique” is a small group of people with common interests.
4) Colonel/Kernel – A “colonel” is a high-ranking army officer. A “kernel” is a type of soft and edible seed.
5) Descent/Dissent – A “descent” is an act of moving downward. “Dissent” is an expression of opinions that vary from those previously or commonly held.
6) Discreet/Discrete – To be “discreet” is to be careful and circumspect. To be “discrete” is to be separate and distinct.
7) Exercise/Exorcise – To “exercise” is to practice physical activity to improve health and fitness. To “exorcise” is to drive out an evil spirit from a person or place.
8) Faint/Feint – To “faint” is to briefly lose consciousness. To “feint” is to make a false move meant to distract or deceive, typically during a fight.
9) Foul/Fowl – To be “foul” is to be offensive or wicked. A “fowl” is a domestic bird raised for its eggs and meat.
10) Hoarse/Horse – A “hoarse” voice is rough and harsh-sounding. A “horse” is a hoofed domesticated animal raised for riding, racing, and working.
11) Idle/Idol/Idyll – To be “idle” is to be inactive. An “idol” is someone or something that is greatly admired, or an image of a deity used as an object of worship. An “idyll” is an extremely idealized peaceful and picturesque scene.
12) Knot/Naught/Not – A “knot” is a fastening made by tying a piece of rope or string. “Naught” is zero or nothing. “Not” is an adverb used to form a negative.
13) Metal/Mettle – “Metal” is a solid material that is typically malleable, fusible, and ductile. “Mettle” is a person’s ability to face difficulties with spirit or resilience.
14) Miner/Minor – A “miner” is someone who works in a mine. A “minor” is someone who is underage. “Minor” also refers to what is lesser in significance.
15) Patience/Patients – “Patience” is the virtue of tolerance. “Patients” are people receiving medical treatment.
16) Peak/Peek/Pique – To “peak” is to reach the highest point. To “peek” is to look quickly and secretively. To “pique” someone’s interest or curiosity is to stimulate it.
17) Pore/Pour – To “pore” over reading materials is to be immersed in the study of them. To “pour” is to drop liquid from a container in a steady stream.
18) Principal/Principle – To be “principal” is to be the most significant. A “principal” is a person with the highest authority in an institution. A “principle” is a fundamental truth.
19) Stationary/Stationery – To be “stationary” is to be immobile. “Stationery” is specially printed writing paper.
20) Steal/Steel – To “steal” is to take someone else’s belongings without their permission. “Steel” is a sturdy alloy consisting of iron and carbon.
What are your thoughts on these homonyms? Any others you would add to this list?