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Aren’t homonyms annoying?

Even fluent speakers of a language can get tripped up by these tricksy words. Both homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings) and homographs (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings) can cause confusion and ambiguity. Readers/listeners will have to rely entirely on their grasp of context, which can make these words incredibly difficult for language learners in particular. English has many of these confusing words, here are a few below:


  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.


  • The children were allowed to read aloud.
  • This bazaar is bizarre.

And it’s not just English they appear in, many languages have homonyms. Here are a few examples from other languages:


  • La mode est un mode de vie. (Fashion is a way of life.)
  • Faire le tour d’une tour. (Take a tour of a tower.)
  • Mon père perd sa paire de chaussettes tous les soirs. (My father loses his pair of shoes every evening.)
  • Ca me tente d’aller sous la tente avec ma tante! (I’m tempted to go in the tent with my aunt.)


  • Este libro vale £20, pero tengo un vale de descuento. (This book is worth £20, but I have a discount voucher.)
  • Siempre que recuerdo el dia del rio me rio. (I always laugh when I think of the day at the river.)
  • Juan vino al bar y nos tomamos juntos un vino. (Juan came to the bar and we drank wine together.)


  • Principi:
    Princes – I principi e i cavalieri si diressero al castello (Princes and knights headed to the castle)
    Principles – La sua opinione si basa su principi che non condivido (His/Her opinion is based on principles I don’t agree with)
  • Amare:
    To love – C’è differenza tra amare una persona ed esserle semplicemente amico (There is a difference between loving someone or just being their friend)
    Bitter – Queste melanzane arrosto sono davvero amare (There roasted aubergines are really bitter)
  • Tenere:
    To hold/keep – Quando arriviamo, dobbiamo tenere un posto per mia sorella (When we get there, we must save a place for my sister)
    Soft, cute, tender – Queste bistecche sono molto tenere (These steaks are very tender)
  • Pesca:
    Peach – Oggi ho mangiato una pesca (I’ve eaten a peach today)
    Fishery – La pesca e la caccia sono di competenza delle regioni (Fishery and hunting are regulated by Italian regions)
    Raffle – Alla pesca di beneficienza ho vinto due tazze (I have won two mugs in the charity raffle)
  • Chiese:
    Churches – In Italia vi sono molte chiese famose (In Italy there are several famous churches)
    [he/she] asked – Marco le chiese se stava bene (Marco asked her if she was ok)

However, as difficult as these words can prove to be when learning a new language, many of our funniest puns and double-entendres (and let’s not forget tongue twisters) probably wouldn’t be possible without them.

So, what do you think? Have you ever been tripped up by homonyms, either in your own language or another (or both, in my case)?

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