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Types of Words: Paronyms, Homophones, Homographs, Homonyms, Heteronyms, Capitonyms, and Oronyms

Types of Words: Paronyms, Homophones, Homographs, Homonyms, Heteronyms, Capitonyms, and Oronyms

The English language contains many words with similar or identical spellings and pronunciations but different meanings. Learning the differences between paronyms, homophones, homographs, homonyms, heteronyms, capitonyms, and oronyms is essential for avoiding common and sometimes embarrassing mistakes.

Paronyms

Paronyms are words with similar pronunciations but different spellings and meanings. For example:

  • accept – verb – to take or receive that which is offered
  • except – preposition – excluding

My mom must accept that my brother likes all vegetables except for turnips.

  • collision – noun – crash, clash, conflict
  • collusion – noun – a secret agreement that is oftentimes illegal

The collision resulted from the collusion over traffic signs.

Homophones

Homophones are words with identical pronunciations but different spellings and meanings. For example:

  • flour – noun – ground up grain
  • flower – noun – the bloom of a plant

While baking a cake with flour, I received a flower from my husband.

  • to – preposition
  • too – adverb – also
  • two – determiner – numeral 2

The mailman delivered two packages to me too.

Homographs

Homographs are words with identical spellings but different meanings. Homographs may have identical or different pronunciations. For example:

  • rose – noun – a type of flower
  • rose – verb – simple past form of to rise

The gardener rose early to tend to his rose garden.

  • wind – noun – movement of the air
  • wind – verb – to tighten, to coil

Wind your scarf tight to keep it from blowing away in the wind.

Homonyms

Homonyms are words with identical spellings and pronunciations but different meanings. Homonyms are also homographs. For example:

  • left – adverb – opposite of right
  • left – verb – simple past form of to leave

The thief left through the left door.

  • stalk – noun – the stem of a plant
  • stalk – verb – to follow, to track, to pursue

That creepy stranger stalks the woman who leaves up the flower stalks in the park.

Heteronyms

Heteronyms are words with identical spellings but different pronunciations and meanings. Many heteronyms have similar or related origins or meanings. Heteronyms are also homographs. For example:

  • house – noun – a dwelling place, a residential building
  • house – verb – to place in residence

My new house is big enough to house my entire library of books.

Yesterday I read one chapter; today I will read another.

Capitonyms

Capitonyms are words with identical spellings except for a difference in the capitalization but different meanings. Capitonyms may have identical or different pronunciations. For example:

  • mercury – noun – a chemical element
  • Mercury – noun – a planet

The mercury in a regular thermometer would explode on Mercury.

  • polish – verb – to shine, to make shiny
  • Polish – adjective – originating from Poland

Ask the maid to polish my Polish silverware.

Oronyms

Oronyms are paronymic phrases, phrases with similar pronunciations but different spellings and meanings. For example:

  • four candles
  • fork handles

The four candles dripped on the silver fork handles.

  • I scream
  • ice cream

I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice scream.

Learning the differences between paronyms, homophones, homographs, homonyms, heteronyms, capitonyms, and oronyms in the English language is necessary for writers and speakers who wish to avoid embarrassing errors.

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