What is a Heteronym

What is a Heteronym

Heteronyms, also known as heterophones are words that have the same spellings but share different pronunciations and different meanings.  Heteronyms belong to the category of homographs. All heteronyms are homographs, but not all homographs are heteronyms. A homograph refers to two or more words that contain the same spellings and different meanings. Homographs contain words that share the same pronunciation as well as words that don’t. Therefore, a heteronym can be defined as homographs that share the same pronunciations.  It is also important to notice that heteronym pronunciation can vary in stress patterns, vowel realization, etc.

Related Terms

Many people confuse the three terms heteronym, homonym, homophone and homograph because they all sound similar. Therefore, let us first look at the different definitions of these words clearly

Heteronyms are words that have the same spellings, but different pronunciation and meaning.

Homographs are words that have the same spellings, but different meaning, origin or/ and pronunciation.

Homonyms are words that have the same pronunciation or spelling, but different meanings.

Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling.

If you observe these definitions carefully, you’ll note that there is a close relationship between these word categories. For example, heteronyms are a subcategory of homographs whereas homophones are the opposite of heteronyms. You can understand this interrelationship better by observing the chart below.What is a Homonym

Examples of Heteronyms

Heteronym

Meaning 1

Pronunciation 1

Example 1

Meaning 2

Pronunciation 2

Example 2

Lead

metal

/liːd/

Lead is a heavy metal.

verb

/lɛd/

The leader is supposed to lead the class.

Read

present tense of read

/riːd/

He likes to read novels.

past tense of read

/rɛd/

He read a novel yesterday.

Tear

Drops of liquid produced from the eyes.

/tɪə/

She wiped her tears.

pull something apart

/tɛː/

I saw him tear the letter into pieces.

August

month

/ˈɔːɡəst/

He was born in August 1955.

respected and impressive

/ɔːˈɡʌst

He was in august company.

Agape

open wide

/əˈɡeɪp/

He listened, with his mouth agape.

altruistic, beneficial love

/ ˈaɡəpi/

There is a distinction between eros and agape.

Close

nearby

 /kləʊs/

Our school is close to the sea.

shut

/kləʊz/

Can you close the door, please?

Dove

bird

/dʌv/

He fed the dove.

past of dive

/dəʊv/

He dove into the sea.

Invalid

disabled person

/ˈɪnvəlɪd/ 

They treat me as if I’m an invalid.

incorrect

/ɪnˈvalɪd/

The example you have used is invalid.

Minute

sixty seconds

/ˈmɪnɪt/

Give me a minute.

extremely small

/mʌɪˈnjuːt/

He has a minute chance of winning.

Resume

to start again

/rɪˈzjuːm/

She wants to resume her career.

curriculum vitae

/ˈrɛzjʊmeɪ/

He promised to look at my resume.

Heteronym – Summary

  • Heteronyms are words that have the same spellings, but different pronunciation and meaning.
  • The difference in pronunciation might include stress patterns, vowel realization, etc.
  • Heteronyms are also homographs.

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