English Lessons


Homonyms in English - Part I

In English, there are many words that sound and are spelled the same, but they have different meanings. These are called homonyms. It may sound confusing, but in this first lesson in the series, we'll look at some examples to help clarify the differences so that mixing them up can be avoided!


A good example of a homonym is the noun "rose" (the flower) and the verb "rose" (the past tense of "to rise"). Take a look at the two examples of "rose" and their different meanings:


A sprinkling of rose petals.
Caption 32, Victoria Sponge: The Royal Connection


The verb "to rise" has many meanings, such as "to get out of bed," or to assume a standing position" after lying or sitting down. It can even mean "to return from the dead" as shown in this example:


He was crucified on Good Friday, and after that, he rose again.
Caption 20-21, Holidays and Seasons with Sigrid: Easter


The noun "bank" can mean either a financial institution or "a raised portion of seabed or sloping ground along the edge of a stream, river, or lake." 


Two people have a bank account together: a joint account.
Caption 25, The Alphabet: the Letter J


My favorite place is probably on the south bank of the Thames River here in London.
Caption 19, Chris, I.T. Professional: Information Technology


The word "bow" has a multitude of very different meanings, both as a noun and a verb: 


Tie a ribbon in a bow. When you meet the queen, you bow.
Captions 48-49, English: with Annette O'Neil


The noun "bow," in this case the bow on a wrapped birthday gift for example and the verb "bow," as in bending from the waist in honor of somebody, are pronounced differently. Watch the video above to hear the pronunciations.


I got two orcas off my port bow.
Caption 38, National Geographic WILD: Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark


In this case, "bow" is a nautical term meaning the front of a boat or ship.


Bow hairs are being shredded like crazy!
Caption 45, Sting: Symphonicity EPK


Here the noun "bow" referred to is the bow of a violin.


Further Learning
To find more instances of homonyms like these, have a look at Yabla English and see if you can find more examples. Perhaps you know some already that confuse you again and again — the Yabla videos can help you put these words in an everyday context! 


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