The word “homonym” comes from the Greek homonymos, meaning “having the same name”. A homonym is a word that not only sounds like another word but is also spelled the same, thus has the same name or signifier as another word. These words sound the same and look the same, their meaning, however, is completely different.
A typical example of a homonym is “book /bʊk/”, which can have several meanings:
- as a noun – meaning a bound set of sheets, a written text, something to read
“The coloring book kept her busy while they worked.”
- as a verb – meaning to reserve accommodation, buy a ticket etc.
“I booked you on the 10 o’clock flight.”
Homonyms are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling but have different pronunciation, literally meaning “same writing”) AND homophones (words that are pronounced the same, regardless of the spelling, literally meaning “same sound”).