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Homonym is a group of words that share the same spelling or pronunciation (or both) but have different meanings.

The word “homonym” comes from Greek prefix homo- (“same”) and suffix -onym (“name”). Thus, it refers to two or more distinct words sharing the “same name”.

Examples in English:

  • stalk - part of a plant
  • stalk - to follow someone around
  • the trio of words totoo and two
  • bow – To bend forward at the waist in respect (e.g. “bow down”)
  • bow – the front of the ship (e.g. “bow and stern”)
  • bow – the weapon which fires arrows (e.g. “bow and arrow”)
  • bow – a kind of tied ribbon (e.g. bow on a present, a bowtie)
  • bow – to bend outward at the sides (e.g. a “bow-legged” cowboy)
  • bough – a branch on a tree. (e.g. “when the bough breaks…”)

Similarly, a river bank, a savings bank, a bank of switches, and a bank shot in pool share only a common spelling and pronunciation, but not meaning.

Examples in French:

  • vers, ver, verre, vert (poetry, worm, glass, green)
  • mer, mère et maire (sea, mother, mayor)
  • sang, cent, sans, sent (blood, one hundred, without, smells)

Examples in Russian:

  • ключ (key) and ключ (spring)
  • коса (braid), коса (cock-eye), коса (scythe)
  • пол (sex), пол (floor)
  • течь (leak), течь (to flow)

Examples in German:

  • arm (poor), der Arm (arm)
  • das Band (ribbon), der Band (volume (book)
  • das Gehalt (salary) , der Gehalt (content)