Did you hear about the man who left town by turning left at the stop light? He realized he forgot to use his arm to arm his house alarm. So he turned right at the light, because it was the right thing to do.

Words can be funny, can’t they? Did you notice that several words in the sentences above are spelled the same and pronounced the same, yet they have different meanings? We call those words homonyms. The word “homonym” comes from a Greek word that means “having the same name.”

When you begin to think about words, you’ll realize that there are a lot of words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings. There are also a lot of words that are pronounced the same, but have different spellings.

There are special terms for all of these types of words, and we’ll explain more about them here. It may seem confusing at first, but the important thing to remember is that just because two or more words sound the same or are spelled the same doesn’t mean they mean the same thing.

Words that are spelled the same but have different meanings are called homographs. Homographs can be further broken down into two groups depending upon if they’re pronounced the same.

Homographs that are pronounced the same are also homophones (and also homonyms, which are words that are spelled and pronounced the same, yet have different meanings). Examples of these words were seen above: right (direction) and right (correct). Homographs that are pronounced differently are called heteronyms. Examples of heteronyms include bow (to bend over) and bow (the hunting weapon).

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. As already mentioned, homophones that are spelled the same are also homographs (and homonyms). If they’re spelled differently, they’re called heterographs. Examples of heterographs include to, too and two. You have to be careful with heterographs. Modern technology, such as spelling and grammar checkers, will not always catch when you use a heteronym incorrectly, since you probably spelled the wrong word right!

And just to make things even more fun, did you realize that there are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings when capitalized? We call these words capitonyms. Examples of capitonyms include march (a way of walking) and March (the month).

You may notice that people get these different terms confused very easily. People often call pairs of words homonyms when they’re really just homographs or homophones. Remember: homonyms are both homographs (spelled the same) and homophones (pronounced the same).

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    • Hi, Shundee! Today’s Wonder of the Day® will help you discover what homonyms are…in a SUPER FUN way! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  1. A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y and Z. Now I know my ABC’s, next time won’t you sing with me!!!! I like the alphabet!!! You should do a wonder on them!!!

    • It’s SO AWESOME that you thought today’s Wonder was cool, Kamryn! Thanks for letting us know you liked it, and THANKS for being a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

    • That’s a really awesome guess about tomorrow’s Wonder, Stefani and KD! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

  2. I am the king of homonymns. I know the guy who invented them. His name is The Really Really Really Really Really Real Deal Guy.

    • We’re excited to have a royal Wonder Friend visiting Wonderopolis, today, “The Really Really Really Really Really Real Deal Guy!” Thanks for letting us know you stopped by today’s Wonder about homonyms! :-)

    • We think it’s GREAT that you love the alphabet, Gloria! We do, too! We also think it’s fun to learn new things in Wonderopolis…thanks for exploring today’s Wonder with us! :-)

  3. Hello again. I was just wondering if y’all can do a wonder on how many cupcakes can fit in a bath tub? Gloria (our friend is asking the same lol) and also a wonder on how many cats fit in a 10 foot swimming pool?

    • Way to go, Rahul! We’re super proud of you! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis every day…you are an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

  4. We have learned about homophones and homographs. Today’s video was pretty cool, we have made videos like that before about regrouping in addition. We thought his accent was neat, is he Australian? Tomorrow’s wonder might be about the best book ever? See you tomorrow Mr. Wonderopolis!

    • Happy Tuesday, Mr. Draper’s Class! We’re not sure about the nationality of the boy in the video for today’s Wonder, but we thought his accent was cool, too! Thank you for letting us know you learned some interesting new things about words by exploring today’s Wonder! We appreciate hearing that and hope you guys have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • We’re really glad to hear that, “Wonder!” We had LOTS of FUN WONDERing about homonyms today, and we’re happy that you did, too! :-)

  5. I “read” a book and the book was “red”. (Liam)

    Homonyms are fun! (Ellis)

    Thanks Wonderopolis! Have a GREAT day!

    • We’re so very happy to receive a comment from our KF Dragons friends today! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about homonyms, Liam and Ellis! Mr. Fines shared a little bit about your poetry and your Skype sharing with us on his Wonder blog…we think that was AWESOME! Great job, guys! We also think Mr. Fines and all the WONDERful KF Dragons ROCK! :-)

    • “Plane” and “plain” are awesome choices for today’s Wonder, Amos! Way to go! Thank you for sharing your comment with us today…we hope you have a TERRIFIC Tuesday! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about homonyms, Young, Wild & Free! We appreciate your comment today! :-)

  6. Hey Annie. What grade are you in? I love today’s Wonder. I’ve learned a bit about homonyms. I love you, Wonderopolis.

    • We think it’s GREAT that you and Annie have connected by exploring Wonders in Wonderopolis, and that you both have found that you have things in common, Caelah! You guys are AMAZING Wonder Friends! :-)

    • That ROCKS, Caelah! We’re super happy to hear that! We learned a LOT about homonyms by hanging out in Wonderopolis today, too! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you thought the video for today’s Wonder was awesome, Olivia! We think your comment is AWESOME, and we’re glad you visited today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  7. I liked today’s Wonder! Oh, and sorry Caelah for spelling your name wrong. Oops! Anyways, today’s Wonder was GREAT!!! I love to play with words!!!

    • Happy Tuesday, Annie! We’re glad you’re back to WONDER some more with us! Thank you for sharing with Caelah in your comment, too! :-)

  8. We learned homonyms at the beginning of 2nd grade. I don’t see why it should be on a 4th 5th and 6th grade.

    • We appreciate your comment, Phil, and think it’s awesome that you already know about homonyms!

      We have LOTS of AMAZING Wonder Friends from all over the world! They are all different ages! Some of them already have background knowledge about a day’s Wonder (like you!), and some of them have never even WONDERed about the subject of a specific Wonder of the Day® before. We think it’s AWESOME that we can all WONDER about different things at different times in our lives! :-)

  9. Hey wonderopolis!!! Cool wonder today, I think it is a great wonder, I think tomorrow’s wonder is about something. Everything is about something… well bye, see you tomorrow!!!!!!!

    • We like that, Emily! “Everything is about something.” What a cool way to WONDER about the world! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and your comment with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • What a SUPER clever comment, Mr. Flab! We like the “write” and “right” word play! Thanks for making us smile today! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you liked today’s Wonder, Damaiya! We really appreciate hearing from you today! :-)

    • Hello, Brandarius! We’re glad you thought today’s Wonder about homonyms was GREAT! We hope you have a WONDERful rest of the day! :-)

    • Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today and for leaving us a WONDERful comment, Janae! We appreciate hearing about your experience with homonyms! :-)

  10. I think my favorite homonym is there, thier, and they’re, because they are very easy. It is so cool to me. I love homonyms. I think the boy is Australian, I hope I am right.

    • We really like your choice for favorite homonyms, Damaiya! “There, they’re and their” are tricky for some Wonder Friends, but we think it’s cool that you think they are easy to distinguish from each other! Have an AWESOME day! :-)

    • We’re not quite sure where the boy in the video for today’s Wonder is from, Janae, but we think it might be Australia or New Zealand, based on his accent. We appreciate that you left us another comment today! :-)

    • Thanks for asking that SUPER question, Randall! We search high and low for the best videos to accompany each Wonder of the Day®, so you never know! Jack just might make another appearance in a future Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  11. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day might be “Why Do You Read?” It was cool meeting you, Wonderopolis. I hope I get my guess correct! :)

    • It was AWESOME meeting you, too, Isha! We’re so glad you stopped by for a visit and shared your guess for what the next Wonder of the Day® might be about! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing what nationality you think the boy in the video for this Wonder is, Awesomeness! We appreciate your opinion and your comment! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • Thanks for leaving us that cool comment, Cody! We appreciate it and we’re super glad you visited this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  12. What’s up, Wonderopolis? I know homonym. It is 2 words that sound the same but are spelled different. Anyways, I have bad news. Yesterday, well I kinda cut my self yesterday, so yeah, good thing I don’t need stitches like last time. Well, good night for me.

    Sincerely: Mushkale, BYE

    • YIKES, Mushkale! We hope you are OK! We’re super sorry that you got hurt…we care a lot about all of our Wonder Friends! We hope you heal quickly and have a WONDERful day. Thank you for sharing your comment with us and THANK YOU for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  13. I have an question…is jack going to be back on because he was great also funny….are you going to make more?

    HOPE SO!

    • That’s a WONDERful question, Janae! We use lots of different, AMAZING videos for our Wonders of the Day®, so Jack might just make another appearance sometime in the future! We bet he’d be happy to know he has a new fan! :-)

    • We thought it was awesome when Jack, the boy in the video, said that at the end, too, Claire! We guess he’s just as interested in helping the environment as he is in helping us learn about homonyms! :-)

    • WONDERful, Grant! We hope you enjoyed this as a review of what you already know. Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Wonder Friend! :-)

  14. So, homographs are different words that are spelled the same and homophones are spelled the same and pronounced different? I hope that is right.

    • Hi, Morgan! You are very close Wonder Friend! Words that are spelled the same but have different meanings are called homographs. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. Homophones that are spelled the same are also homographs. It can get a bit confusing. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a homonym?
  • What’s the difference between a homograph and a homophone?
  • What is a capitonym?

 

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Try It Out

Ready to have more fun with words? Recruit a friend or family member to help you check out the following activities:

  • Check out the fun Word Confusion game online to help Regan the Vegan make fresh salad. All you need to do is choose the correct word to complete each sentence!
  • If you want to explore a huge list of homonyms, check out the Homonym Word Bank online. We bet you never realized there were so many homonyms! How many homonyms on the list did you already know? How many were new to you? Do you know of any homonyms not in the Homonym Word Bank? If you do, post them on Facebook to share with all your Wonder Friends!
  • Did you know that spies can use words to create elaborate mathematical codes that can communicate things like phone and bank account numbers? It’s true! Check out the following sentence and see if you can find the hidden mathematical message:

I’m done. Too many people ate bananas for breakfast!

If you’re good with codes, you probably picked up that the hidden message was 1-2-8-4. Maybe that’s the combination for a secret locker! Here’s where those numbers were hidden:

I’m done. Too many people ate bananas for breakfast.

Do you see how heterographs like “too,” “ate,” and “for” were used? Can you make up your own challenging code? Give it a try and then challenge your friends and family members to unlock the code!

Still Wondering

Ready to have even more fun with words? Check out The Electric Company for a fun multi-media literacy experience designed to teach reading concepts through fun and engaging videos, games and activities.

 

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