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A homonym is a word that is identical to another word either in sound or spelling, but differs from it in meaning. It comes from the Greek homos meaning ‘same’. Homonyms can be divided into two sub-types: homophones (from the Greek ‘same’ and phone, ‘sound’) and homograph (‘same’ and graphe,‘writing’).

These are homonyms that are also homographs; they are spelt the same but pronounced differently:

Capsule - Homonym

Capsule – Homonym

  • ‘The bandage was wound around the wound.’
  • ‘The farm was used to produce produce.’

These homonyms are also homophones; they are spelt differently but pronounced the same:

  • ‘I will die if you dye that pink.’
  • ‘Can you see that ewe by the yew?’
  • ‘That boat shop has got a sail sale on.’

Homophones can often be the root cause of common spelling errors: your and you’re, for example. They are also the basis of many glorious puns and jokes. Here are a few courtesy of my favourite joke book (Tim Vine, you are a genius!):

  • The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her and said, ‘did you get my drift?’
  • My dog always misinterprets things I say. I say ‘heel’ and he goes down the hospital and does what he can.
  • So I went to the cinema and saw a very sad film. The guy behind me started wailing. I got hit in the back of the head with a harpoon.
  • She said ‘I’m going to dig a hole in the ground and fill it with water.’ I thought, she means well.

Test your understanding by telling me which of the above jokes are based on homophones and which are homographs. Answers in the comments please!


Tell me your favourite homonym-based joke in the comments!

If you’ve found this useful – please do like and share!


Filed under Common Errors, Proofreading, Writing

Silent Letters

A silent letter is a letter that is part of a word’s written spelling, but is not pronounced when the word is read out loud.

Why do silent letters exist? 

This varies depending on the etymology of each word. Generally, silent letterssilent letters often occur in words originally adopted from other languages that have been subsumed into English. Many of our words have roots in Latin, German, French or Dutch. Moreover, in some words the now silent letters would have been pronounced in the past as in Medieval times, for example, much of the language was more phonetic. Pronunciations change over time. 

Are there rules to learn? 

Unfortunately, there are few spelling rules that tell us when to use a silent letter, but there are general guidelines on whether a letter should be pronounced or not. For example:

is usually silent before the letters and T: lamb, plumber, comb, tomb & subtle, debt, doubt. 

G is silent before an N: gnome, resign, foreigner.

Also, is silent before as in diaphragm. 

The more you learn, the more patterns you will see.

So, what is the best way to learn silent letters? 

Practice is the key- perhaps you could have a go at making sentences with as many silent letters in as possible. It may initially be beneficial  to pronounce the silent letter in your head to help you to remember the spelling. Also, highlight the silent letters, as above, or write them in a different colour to make them stand out to you. Read more about them here or try the quiz here.

Could you give some more examples? 

I would be delighted! Perhaps you would like them in sentences, just for a change. See if you can spot the silent letters in the following:

Silent N: Last Autumn, hymns were all we could hear coming from the church with the columns at the end of our road. 

Silent D: The handsome man trimmed his hedge on Wednesday, with the help of a badger.

Silent U: When my guest left, I discovered the rogue had stolen a biscuit and a guitar.

Silent H: Which ghost could be knocking on the door with such an insistent rhythm at this hour? Honestly!

Surprised cowSilent T: The witch bought a castle, but often missed mortgage repayments.

Silent K: The knight knew that a knife to the knee would knock him, but a knitting needle to the knee was far worse!

Silent L: The calf was calm until it saw a salmon walk and talk. 

Silent W: Two wrens wrestled for the sword.

Do let me know if you can think of any more- I’d love to read your silent letter sentences. Please like and share if you found this helpful!




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Filed under Common Errors, Proofreading