Welcome to the Heteronym Homepage!

This homepage is about heteronyms, a type of word. See what it's all about!

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Page revised on 1/1/99

Page created on 6/1/96

What are heteronyms?

Heteronyms are words that are spelled identically but have different meanings when pronounced differently. For example:

Lead, pronounced LEED, means to guide. However, lead, pronounced LED, means a metallic element.

Compare heteronyms to homographs, homophones, and homonyms.

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but differ in meaning, derivation, or pronunciation. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, derivation, or spelling. Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings. There is overlap among these categories.

Heteronyms are specific types of homographs in which the different pronunciations are associated with different meanings. Many heteronyms are the result of one pronunciation being a verb and another being a noun.

Well, let's see what we have!

Our lists of heteronyms are shown below. We are limiting ourselves to words commonly used in the English language. Some of our heteronyms have completely different meanings while others have somewhat related meanings. (We also list words that have nearly the same meanings.) We also are including heteronyms in which at least one of the words is a foreign word (as long as it is commonly used in English).

Not every meaning of every word is given. The numbers after the definitions indicate the source of the heteronym; see the Acknowledgments.

As of 1/1/99, we have begun listing words only, without pronunciations and meanings, and the acknowledgment immediately follows.


Affect ehFEKT- to change; AFFekt- a person's feelings or emotion (1)

Alternate ALternit- the next choice; ALternait- switch back and forth (9)

Are AHR- plural present tense of "to be"; AIR- 100 square meters (1/100th of a hectare) [although may also be pronounced AHR] (15)

Ares AIRS- 100 square meter units [plural]; AIReez- Greek god of war [capitalized] (15)

Attribute ahTRIByoot- to consider resulting from; AHtribyoot- a characteristic of someone (12)

August AUgust- month [capitalized]; auGUST- important, eminent (9)

Axes AKsiz- more than one ax or axe; AKseez- the plural of axis (13)

Bass BASE- a string instrument; (rhymes with mass)- a fish (1)

Bow BAU- to lower one's head or the front of a ship; BOH- used to shoot arrows (7)

Bowed BAU-d- to bend over; BOH-d- bent (12)

Buffet BUFFet- to pound or bump; booFAY- place where you serve yourself (9)

Close CLOZE- to shut; CLOS- near (9)

Combine komBYNE- put together; KOMbyne- a threshing machine (1)

Conduct KONduckt- behavior; kunDUCKT- to lead (see this heteronym below) (12)

Conflict kunFLIKT- to act against; KAHNflict- a fight or disagreement (1)

Console KAHNsole- an upright case; kunSOLE- to comfort (2)

Content KAHNtent- meaning; kunTENT- satisfied (1)

Contest kunTEST- to argue; KAHNtest- a match of skill (1)

Contract CONtract- an agreement; conTRACT- to shrink or to agree on a project (2)

Convert conVERT- to change one's belief; CONvert- one whose belief was changed (11)

Converse KAHNvers- the opposite; kunVERS- to talk (1c)

Convict kunVIKT- to find guilty; KAHNvikt- a prisoner (1)

Crooked KROOKt- to bend your neck; KROOK-ed- having a curve (3)

Deliberate diLIBerit- carefully considered; diLIBerATE- to consider (12)

Desert dihZURT- to leave ; DEZert- arid region (18, and below)

Digest DYEjest- collection of published material; dieJEST- absorb nutrients (6)

Do DOO- to accomplish; DOE- a musical note (1)

Does DUZ- performs; DOZE- more than one female deer (1)

Dove DUV- a bird; DOEV- jumped off (1)

Drawer DROR- the compartment you pull out from the dresser; DRAWer- one who draws (1j)

Excuse EKskyooz- to let someone off; EKskyoos- a reason or explanation (17)

House HAUS- a building that serves as living quarters; HOWZ- to provide with living quarters (10)

Incense INsens- burnt aromatic; inSENS- to make angry (9)

Intern INtern- a physician in training; inTERN- confine to prescribed area (14)

Invalid inVALLid- not valid; INvallid- an ill person (1)

Laminate LAMinate- to construct by adding layers; LAMinit [although both pronunciations are listed]- the cover itself (1)

Lather (rhymes with rather)- foam or suds; (rhymes with bath fur)- a worker who installs lath (lattice work) (15)

Lead LEED- to guide; LED- a metallic element (1)

Minute MINNit- 60 seconds; myNOOT- tiny (1)

Moderate MODerit- keeping within reason; MODerATE- to preside over (1)

Mow MOH- to cut grass; MAU- a pile of hay (17)

Multiply MULLtihPLIE- multiply two numbers; MULLtihplee- in a multiple manner (15)

Number NUMber- one, two, three …; NUMMER- more numb [many dictionaries do not list this use, which suggests that "more numb" is preferred; however, the listed use is given in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Electronic version.] (18)

Nun NUN- women in religious order; NOON- 14th letter in Hebrew alphabet (9)

Object ubJEKT- to complain; AHBjekt- a thing (1c)

Pasty PAstee- like glue; PASStee- a meat pie (1)

Pate PAIT- a bald head; paTAY- a minced food; PAHT- a porcelain paste [diacritics in pâté and pâte don't count!](1)

Perfect PERfekt- exactly correct; perFEKT- to make correct (17)

Periodic PEEReeODDik- occasional; PUREeyeODDik- an iodine compound (15)

Permit perMIT- to allow some event to occur; PERmit [although both pronunciations are listed]- a document giving permission (8)

Polish POElish- from Poland; PAHLish- shine [capitalization doesn't count!](4)

Present PREZent- a gift; preeSENT- to give a talk (9)

Primer PRIHMer- an elementary book; PRYmer- the preparatory coat of paint (1c, 12)

Produce PROdoos- vegetables; proDOOS- bring forth (1)

Project proJEKT- to show a movie; PRAHjekt- a task (1)

Pussy PUHSee- having pus; POOHSee; a kitten (18)

Raven RAYven- black bird; RAVen- hungry (9)

Rebel REBBell- a resister; rihBELL- to resist (2)

Record RECKord- a list; reKORD- to write down (1)

Recreation rek-ree-Ashun- pastime; REEcreeAshun- remake (also, recreate) (12)

Refuse reFUSE- to deny; REFFyoos- garbage (1)

Relay reeLAY- to put it down again, such as a carpet; REElay- a race by teams; rihLAY- to pass along, such as information [One of our dictionaries gives these pronunciations, but does not distinguish meanings among the latter two. The pronunciation may vary among individuals.] (12)

Rerun reRUN- to race again or to repeat a show on television; RErun- a repeated TV show (12)

Reside: reZIDE- to stay put; RE-SYD- [Slang] to change places (change teams) [usu. hyphenated as re-side] (20) [N.B.: This is also a antagonym!] {X}

Resign reZYN- to quit; reSYN- to sign again (e.g., a contract) [usu. hyphenated as re-sign] (20) [N.B.: This word is also an antagonym!]

Resume reeZOOM- to restart; REHZoomay- a document of experience [also résumé; diacritics don't count!] (1)

Row ROH- a line; ROUW- a fight (1)

Sake SAHkey- alcoholic drink; SAYK- a purpose (5)

Secrete seeKREET- to discharge; sehKRET- an armored skullcap [secrète, diacritics don't count!]

Secreted seeKREETed- having put out; SEEkrehted- placed out of sight (9) [N.B.: This word is also an antagonym!]

Separate SEPerATE- to divide into groups; SEPret- not joined together (17)

Sewer SOwer- one who sews; SOOwer- place for human waste (9)

Slough SLUFF- the outer layer of skin of a snake; [rhymes with OW!]- a hole of deep mud or mire; SLOO- a marshy pond (19)

Sow SOUW- a pig; SO- to plant seed (1)

Subject SUBjekt- the theme; subJEKT- to force upon someone (12)

Tear TARE- to rip; TEER- fluid in eye (1)

Wind WHINEd- to coil up; WINd- the blowing air (1)

Wound WOOND- to injure; WOWND- coiled up (1)

Heteronymic Sentences

Mary & Harry Baldwin of San Diego (12) are collectors of heteronyms. When they find a word, they compose a sentence that uses the different meanings. For example:

The Baldwins found an article in the Smithsonian Magazine (vol. 19, p. 244, November 1988) by Felicia Lamport entitled "The bass swam around the bass drum on the ocean floor" in which heteronyms are the subject. One nice example: "She wished she could desert him in the desert." Although not known for word games, the website of the Smithsonian Magazine is provided here for your convenience. (Note: The referenced article is not available through the Smithsonian website but there is a link for it here.)

Heteronyms with highly related meanings

Some heteronyms are so closely related that we have decided to give them a separate list. For example:

Live LIHV- [verb] to be alive; LIEV- [adjective] alive [The two meanings of this heteronym couldn't be much closer to each other!] (16)

Others include:

Access (some people pronounce the "a" differently for the noun and verb) (1)

Read (9,17)

Use (17)

Acknowledgments for submissions before 1/1/99

Jim Ellis started the obsession with heteronyms and Jonathan Ellis devised these web pages. Thanks to Karen Jordan for telling us that the word "heteronym" describes these words.

The first to submit the word to us was:

  1. The Ellis family, Ann Arbor, MI (most are Jim's; c=Charlie's; j=Jonathan)
  2. Michel Dumas, London, Ontario, Canada
  3. Jon Vahsholtz and his father; see below for his page
  4. Maria Simonte, Ann Arbor, MI who works for the University of Michigan Alumni Association
  5. c/o Karen Jordan, Ann Arbor, MI
  6. Susan Goldstein, New York, NY
  7. Michael Williams, London, England
  8. Mark L. Irons
  9. Gerald Schafer, Walla Walla College, College Place, WA (schage@wwc.edu)
  10. Phyllis Hall, Nipomo, CA
  11. Bill Momsen
  12. Mary and Harry Baldwin, San Diego, CA
  13. A. David Chan, Lakewood, CA
  14. Chris Alguire
  15. Mr. V wishes to remain anonymous
  16. John R MacMillan
  17. Tim L. Crawford
  18. Dana Albert, San Francisco, CA
  19. Bruce A. Bishop
  20. Rex Stocklin, Marina del Rey, CA

Go to the heteronym list.

You may not believe this, but….

After we posted this web page, we found others on the web who also collect heteronyms! Here are the links we have found… so far!

Jon Vahsholtz's The Heteronym Page

Mark Brader's Homograph list

Stephen Pickles' Heteronyms

Still with the word craze?

Check out our Antagonym Homepage!

© Ellis