Phillip M. Feldman
Prof. Bard C. Cosman, University of California at San Diego
Nathaniel ("Ned") Feldman ז"ל
Armando Quiros ז"ל
Last update 11 Jan., 2021
Homophones are words having identical or at least similar pronunciations, but different meanings. Many homophones have arisen because of sound change or sound drift, i.e., the pronunciations were originally different, but one or both have gradually changed over time. Examples include (bad, bade) and (fate, fete). Other homophones have arisen because one or both of the words have been imported from a foreign language. (Sound change may also be a factor here). An example is (chanty, shanty); chanty is probably an alteration of the French chanter ("to sing"), while shanty is an adaptation of the Canadian French chantier ("cabin").
In the compilation of this collection, we've tended to limit ourselves to words and pronunciations that are used widely throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, or both. In most cases, words and pronunciations that are peculiar to English speakers in other countries, or specific to regions of the U.S. or U.K., are excluded.
Informal, colloquial, and archaic words and pronunciations are excluded. We also exclude "emerging" pronunciations that are not yet considered standard. For example, in the audio book The Story of Human Language by Prof. John McWhorter, the author mentions that one can increasingly hear the word law pronounced like la, which would make these words homophones if we accepted this pronunciation as standard.
Homophonous words must have different meanings; two variant spellings of the same word—even when one form has additional meanings— cannot be considered homophones. (An example of this is e.g., gang and gangue).
dictionary.com is the primary reference for determining what spellings and pronunciations are standard.
For purposes of deciding whether a word is slang/informal or colloquial, however, I use both dictionary.com and merriam-webster.com. When these two sources disagree, the more liberal one prevails. For example: dictionary.com lists sync as informal, but merriam-webster.com lists is as standard, and I have consequently included the homophone pair (sink, sync).
A tilde (~) at the beginning of the line indicates a pseudo-homophone: Either the pronunciation is not exactly the same because of differences in stress or a slight difference in the vowel sound, or one of the words is a proper pronoun. (If the consonants are different, as between swelter and svelter, then even the pseudo-homophone designation does not apply).
In abbess, the stress is on the first syllable, while in abyss, it is on the second.
Acher, although not in any of the online dictionaries, is understandable as one who aches and a reasonable derivative of ache.
dictionary.com lists two pronunciations for acetic; the second of these, which has a short 'e' sound, is homophonous with ascetic.
dictionary.com lists two pronunciations for demesne; the second of these is homophonous with demean.
As per Prof. Cosman, the words parcours (athletic course) and parkour (obstacle sport) are two versions of the same French word, brought into English at different times. As with the word group cancer, chancre, and canker, the meanings are related but distinct. Unlike the three words derived from a root meaning crab, parcours and parkour are homophonous.
Prof. Cosman notes that some speakers prononounce the h in words such as when, whir, and whirry, but this is no longer common in the United States.
'tth' means 'item number t' (of a series of items).
dictionary.com lists two pronunciations for with; the first of these has a soft th, and is thus homophonous with width.
There are two pronunciations of whisht, one of which is homophonous with wished.
dictionary.com lists gey as "Scottish" and wud as "chiefly
a, uh ~ a la, Allah accept, except acclamation, acclimation acetic, ascetic acclamation, acclimation acher, acre acholic, acolic acquiesce, aqueous ad, add adds, ads, adz, adze adherence, adherents admiscible, admissible aerial, areal aerie, airy, eerie afterward, afterword agami, agamy ail, ale air, aire, ere, err, eyre, heir aisle, I'll, isle allegation, alligation all, awl allowed, aloud all together, altogether all ways, always also, all so altar, alter analyst, annalist anchorite, ankerite androgenous, androgynous ant, aunt ante, anti, auntie apatite, appetite appose, oppose arc, ark areole, aureole, oriole ascent, assent asperate, aspirate ate, eight auger, augur aught, ought aura, ora aural, oral auricle, oracle autarchy, autarky aw, awe away, aweigh awful, offal aye, eye, I bad, bade baht, bot (or bott) bail, bale bailey, bailie bait, bate baize, bays, beys ~ balm, bomb band, banned banns, bans bard, barred bare, bear bark, barque baron, barren ~ baroque, broke basal, basil based, baste bass, base bate, beit [Beit is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.] baud, bawd bay, bey be, bee beach, beech bearing, baring beastie, bhisti beat, beet beau, bow been, bin beer, bier bell, belle ~ berets, brays, braze berry, bury berth, birth better, bettor bhoy, boy, buoy bib, bibb bight, bite, byte billed, build bird, burred birr, burr bit, bitt blew, blue bloc, block boar, bore board, bored boarder, border bode, bowed bogey, bogie, bogy bokeh, bouquet bold, bolled, bowled bolder, boulder bole, boll, bowl bonds, bonze born, borne, bourn borough, burrow bough, bow bouillon, bullion brae, bray braise, brays, braze braid, brayed brain, brane brake, break brays, braze breach, breech bread, bred ~ breath, breadth breeze, bries brewed, brood brews, bruise bridal, bridle brilliance, brilliants broach, brooch bruit, brute burger, burgher burley, burly bury, burry bus, buss bust, bussed but, butt by, buy, bye byre, buyer cache, cash call, caul callous, callus cannon, canon ~ Candide, candied cant, can't canter, cantor canvas, canvass capital, capitol carat, caret, carrot carpal, carpel ~ carrion, carryon cart, carte cask, casque cast, caste caster, castor caudal, caudle cause, caws cay, key, quay cedar, ceder, seeder cede, seed ceded, seeded ceiling, sealing, seeling cell, sell cellar, seller cense, cents, scents, sense censer, censor cent, scent, sent cere, sear, seer, sere cereal, serial cession, session champagne, champaign chantey, shanty chased, chaste cheap, cheep ~ check, Czech chews, choose chili, chilly choir, quire choler, coaler choler, collar cholic, colic, colick choral, coral chronical, chronicle chute, shoot cite, sight, site clack, claque clammer, clamor classed, clast clause, claws cleek, clique cleft, klepht clew, clue click, clique climb, clime close, clothes clouder, clowder clue, clew coal, cole coarse, corse, course coat, cote coax, cokes cocky, khaki coddling, codling coffer, cougher coiffeur, quaffer coin, quoin colation, collation colonel, kernel ~ comet, commit ~ comity, committee ~ commence, comments complacence, complaisance complacent, complaisant complement, compliment con, khan ~ concord, conquered confluence, confluents consonance, consonants continence, continents coo, coup coolie, coolly cops, copse cord, cored, chord core, corps correspondence, correspondents council, counsel ~ courtesy, curtsey cousin, cozen coward, cowered coy, koi crater, krater crawl, kraal creak, creek crew, cru crewed, crude crewel, cruel crews, cruise, crus, cruse cubit, qubit cue, queue coom, cum, cwm cur, ker ~ curate, curette (or curet) currant, current currier, courier curser, cursor cygnet, signet cymbal, symbol cysteine, cystine, Sistine dam, damn ~ daughter, dotter day, dey days, daze, deys dear, deer deasil, diesel decade, decayed ~ defuse, diffuse deign, Dane demean, demesne dense, dents dentel, dentil dependence, dependents derailer, derailleur descent, dissent desert, dessert devisor, divisor dew, do, due dewar, doer dhole, dole dhow, dow dhows, dowse dial, diel diarrhetic, dieretic, diuretic die, dye ~ dinar, dinner dine, dyne dire, dyer disc, disk ~ disburse, disperse discreet, discrete disease, dizzies dissidence, dissidents ~ distal, distil ~ divers, diverse doe, dough done, dun dost, dust doubt, dought drachm, dram draft, draught draftee, draughty djin, gin, jinn droop, drupe dual, duel ducked, duct ear, ere earing, earring earn, erne, urn eau, oh, owe eave, eve ~ elicit, illicit elision, elysian elusion, illusion ~elusive, illusive encyst, insist entrance, entrants epic, epoch erred, 'eard ~ euthanasia, youth in Asia ewe, yew, you expeller, ex-speller eye, aye, I eyelet, islet facial, fascial fain, fane, feign faint, feint fair, fare fairing, faring ~ fairy, ferry faker, fakir (or faquir) ~ farcy, Farsi faro, farro, farrow, Pharoah fate, fete father, fother faun, fawn fay, fey faze, phase feat, fete, feet fellow, felloe felt, veldt feted, fetid figurate, figure eight filar, filer file, phial filter, philtre find, fined ~ finish, Finnish fir, fur fisher, fissure fizz, phiz flack, flak flair, flare flay, fley flea, flee fleche, flesh flecks, flex flew, flu, flue flicks, flix flier, flyer flo, floe, flow floc, flock flocks, flocs, phlox flour, flower foaled, fold for, fore, four forbear, forebear foreword, forward fort, forte forth, fourth foul, fowl franc, frank, Frank fraise, frays, phrase frees, freeze, frieze friar, fryer fro, frow froes, froze fugal, fugle führer, furor fungous, fungus furs, furze fuse, fuze gaff, gaffe gage, gauge gaol, jail gait, gate gamble, gambol gassed, gast gat, ghat gays, gaze gel, jell gene, jean gest, jest ghoul, gul ~ ghoulish, goulash gibber, jibber gild, gilled, guild gilder, guilder gilt, guilt gimel, gimmal gnu, knew, new, nu gnus, news gored, gourd gorilla, guerilla grade, grayed graft, graphed grate, great grater, greater grays, graze ~ grease, Greece grill, grille grip, grippe grisly, grizzly groan, grown grocer, grosser guessed, guest guide, guyed guise, guys gul, gull hail, hale hair, hare hairier, harrier hairy, harry hall, haul handsome, hansom hangar, hanger hart, heart hay, hey, heigh hays, haze heal, heel, he'll heard, herd he'd, heed height, hight heroin, heroine hi, hie, high heir, air, e'er here, hear hew, hue hide, hied higher, hire him, hymn hissed, hist ho, hoe hoar, whore, hoer hoard, horde, whored hoarse, horse hoes, hose hold, holed hole, whole holey, holy, wholly hollo, hollow homonymous, homonomous hoop, whoop hostel, hostile hour, our humerus, humorous ~ hungry, Hungary idle, idol, idyl, idyll ileal, ilial ileum, ilium, Ilium immanent, imminent impassable, impassible in, inn incidence, incidents indict, indite indigence, indigents innocence, innocents incense, insense incite, insight instance, instants intense, intents intercession, intersession intern, inturn invade, inveighed it's, its jam, jamb jewel, joule kaki, khaki kern, kirn knap, nap knave, nave knead, kneed, need knight, night knit, nit knot, not know, no knows, noes, nose lacks, lax lade, laid lager, logger lain, lane lam, lamb lama, llama laps, lapse lase, lays, laze, leis lattice, latus lay, lei lea, lee, li leach, leech lead, led leaf, lief leak, leek lean, lien leas, lees leased, least lends, lens lessen, lesson lesser, lessor levee, levy lever, levir leveret, levirate liar, lier, lyre lichen, liken licker, liquor lickerish, liquorice, liquorish lie, lye ~ lightning, lightening limb, limn linch, lynch links, lynx ~ lionize, lyin' eyes lite, light literal, littoral lo, low load, lode, lowed loan, lone loch, lock locks, lox loon, lune loot, lute lorry, lory, Lorie lumbar, lumber made, maid magnate, magnet mail, male main, mane maize, maze mall, maul, moll manakin, manikin, mannequin mandrel, mandrill mangel, mangle manner, manor mantel, mantle marang, meringue maar, mar mare, mayor marshal, martial marten, martin massed, mast mead, meed mean, mien meat, meet, mete medal, meddle meddler, medlar metal, mettle mewl, mule mews, mus, muse meiosis, miosis meeter, meter (or metre) ~ miasma, my asthma might, mite mignonette, minionette mil, mill millenary, millinery mince, mints mind, mined miner, minor minks, minx miscible, missable missal, missile missed, mist missel, missile misses, missis, Mrs. moan, mown moat, mote mode, mowed moo, mu mood, mooed moos, mus moose, mousse moraine, murrain mordant, mordent morn, mourn morning, mourning ~ mosaic, Mosaic mucous, mucus muscle, mussel ~ muscleman, Mussulman mustard, mustered nap, nappe naval, navel nay, nee, neigh necklace, neckless news, nus none, nun noumenal, numinal nudest, nudist oar, or, ore, o'er ode, owed oleo, olio one, won ordinance, ordnance outcast, outcaste overdo, overdue overseas, oversees oxide, oxhide paced, paste packed, pact packs, pax paean, peon pail, pale pain, pane pair, pare, pear palate, palette, pallet, pallette pan, panne parasite, parisite parcours, parkour ~ parlay, parley passed, past patience, patients pax, pocks, pox pause, paws peace, piece peak, peek, pique peal, peel pearl, purl pedal, peddle peer, pier pencel, pencil pend, penned per, purr ~ personal, personnel pervade, purveyed petrel, petrol philogyny, phylogeny ~ Phyrric, pyric pi, pie, pye pica, pika picks, pyx pidgin, pigeon ~ pinnacle, pinochle pistil, pistol place, plaice plain, plane plainsman, planesman plate, plait pleb, plebe pleas, please pliers, plyers plots, plotz plum, plumb pleural, plural polar, poler poll, pole popery, potpourri populace, populous pore, pour pray, prey prays, praise, preys presence, presents pride, pried prier, prior pries, prize prince, prints principal, principle prise, prize prophecy, prophesy profit, prophet pros, prose ~ protein, protean psalter, salter pupal, pupil purest, purist putts, putz putty, putti, puttee quarts, quartz quean, queen ~ quiet, quite rabbet, rabbit rack, wrack racket, raquet, raquette raid, rayed rain, reign, rein raise, rays, raze raiser, razor rancor (or rancour), ranker rap, wrap rapped, rapt, wrapped ray, re read, rede, reed read, red ~ readout, redoubt real, reel recalcitrance, recalcitrants recede, reseed receipt, reseat reck, wreck reek, wreak refind, refined ~ rented/wrentit ~ repel, rappel residence, residents resister, resistor rest, wrest retch, wretch review, revue rheum, room rho, roe, row rhos, roes, rose, rows rhyme, rime rigger, rigor (or rigour) right, rite, wright, write ring, wring road, rode, rowed roc, rock roe, row roil, royal role, roll rood, rude, rued root, route rosary, rosery rote, wrote rough, ruff rouse, rows rout, route rom, rhumb rue, roux, 'roo rues, ruse rung, wrung ~ rushin', Russian rye, wry sabal, sable sac, sack sachet, sashay sail, sale sailer, sailor sane, seine sari, sorry saver, savor scaup, scop ~ scenery, senary scene, seen scull, skull seam, seem seamen, semen seas, sees, seize ~ seminal, Seminole senate, sennet sequence, sequents serf, surf seraph, serif serge, surge settler, settlor sew, so, sow sewer, suer sexed, sext shake, sheik (or sheikh) shear, sheer shier, shire, shyer shoe, shoo shone, shown sic, sick, Sikh side, sighed sigher, sire sighs, size sign, sine, syne sink, sync slate, sleight slay, sleigh sleight, slight slew, slough, slue sloe, slow soar, sore soared, sword socks, sox sol, sole, soul soled, sold some, sum son, sun sou, sue ~ spatial, special spice, speiss squaller, squalor staid, stayed stair, stare stake, steak stationary, stationery steal, steel steer, stere steely, stele step, steppe stichtite, sticktight stile, style stoop, stoup, stupe straight, strait subtler, sutler succor (or succour), sucker suede, swayed suer, sewer summary, summery ~ Sunday, sundae suite, sweet ~ surplice, surplus tacked, tact tacksman, taxman tacksmen, taxmen tacks, tax tail, taille, tale taper, tapir tare, tear taro, tarot tarrier, terrier tartar, tarter, tartare taught, taut taupe, tope tea, tee team, teem tear, tier teas, tease, tees teeth, tth tense, tents ~ tenser, tensor tern, turn testees, testes teeter, titer their, there, they're therefor, therefore threw, through throe, throw throne, thrown thyme, time tic, tick ticcer, ticker tide, tied tighter, titer ~ Tigris, tigress timber, timbre to, too, two toad, toed, towed tocsin, toxin toe, tow told, tolled ton, tun tongue, tung tool, tulle tooter, tutor tracked, tract transeunt, transient tray, trey trews, trues ~ trichinosis, tricky gnosis troop, troupe trussed, trust trustee, trusty turbo, turbot uncal, uncle undo, undue ~ urine, yearn, yourn vail, vale, veil vain, vane, vein vary, very valance, valence vellum, velum versed, verst vial, vile ~ vial, vile, viol vice, vise villae, villi ~ villas, villus villain, villein, villin villous, villus wade, weighed wail, wale, whale wain, wane waist, waste wait, weight waive, wave waiver, waver wale, whale walk, wok want, wont wanton, wonton war, wore ward, warred ware, wear warn, worn wacke, wacky wax, whacks way, weigh we, wee, whee weak, week weakened, weekend weal, we'll, wheel weald, wheeled, wield weather, wether, whether weave, we've we'd, weed weld, welled wen, when we're, weir were, whir wet, whet which, witch ~ Whig, wig whiled, wild, wiled while, wile whined, wind, wined whirl, whorl whirled, whorled, world whirred, word whirry, worry whish, wish whisht, wished whist, wist whit, wit white, wight, wite whither, wither whoa, woe whose, who's width, with wind, wynd wolfish, wolffish wood, would worst, wurst wreak, reek yay, yea yoke, yolk yore, your, you're ~ you'll, Yule