Homophones

Homophones are words that sound the same even though they’re spelt differently and mean different things. Getting them right can be tricky, but it’s worth it in the end.

The reason why homophones are important is not just to do with the general need to spell correctly. Many people think getting them wrong is a ‘worse’ mistake than simply mis-spelling a word because it means that you don’t really know what you’re doing. Anyone can make a spelling mistake, but using completely the wrong word somehow seems a lot worse. That may not sound fair, but that’s just how a lot of people think, so it’s worth learning the common homophones so you don’t get caught out.

Here’s a list of the main ones:

Spellings Meanings
a lot/allot much/distribute
ad/add notice/put together
ads/adds/adze notices/puts together/type of axe
aid/aide help/assistant
ail/ale trouble (verb)/beer
air/heir atmospheric gas/inheritor
aisle/isle/I’ll corridor/island/I will
all ready/already everything set/by a certain time
all together/altogether everyone in the same place/absolutely
all/awl totally/piercing tool
allowed/aloud permitted/out loud
alter/altar change/church table
ant/aunt insect/parent’s sister or brother’s wife
arc/ark part of circle/Biblical boat
assent/ascent agreement/rise
assistance/assistants help/helper
ate/eight consumed/8
aural/oral to do with hearing/to do with mouths
away/aweigh off/up (eg anchors aweigh)
ay/aye/eye/I yes/yes/organ of sight/1st person
bail/bale scoop water out/jump out
bait/bate food on hook/hold (eg bated breath)
ball/bawl sphere/
band/banned group/illegal
bard/barred poet/banned
bare/bear naked/tolerate or grizzly
baron/barren lord/arid
base/bass foundation/low note
be/bee exist/flying insect
beach/beech sandy area/type of tree
beat/beet hit/beetroot
beau/bow male admirer/bend down or front
bell/belle musical instrument/pretty girl
berry/bury fruit/inter
berth/birth sleeping place/arrival of baby
billed/build invoiced/construct
bite/byte nibble/unit of data
blew/blue forced air/colour
bloc/block group of countries/cuboid
boar/bore wild pig/boring person
board/bored flat object/weary
boarder/border lodger/edge
bode/bowed imply/curved
bolder/boulder braver/rock
born/borne created/tolerated
bough/bow branch/bend down or front of ship
boy/buoy male child/floating marker
brake/break slow down/shatter
breach/breech gap/part of gun
bread/bred food made with yeast/brought up
brewed/brood fermented/family
brews/bruise ferments/scar
bridle/bridal leather strap/to do with brides
broach/brooch open (a question)/piece of jewellery
browse/brows look through/hair above the eyes
but/butt although/water tank
buy/by/bye purchase/by means of/goodbye
cache/cash hidden hoard/notes and coins
callous/callus heartless/blister
cannon/canon gun/collection of artistic works
canvas/canvass sail fabric/ask questions of
capital/capitol upper case or city/government building
carat/carrot/caret/karat weight/vegetable/arrow/share of gold
carol/carrel song/cubicle
cast/caste thrown/social class
cede/seed give up/reproductive unit
ceiling/sealing roof/making watertight
cell/sell part of body/exchange for money
cellar/seller basement/person selling
censor/sensor ban (film etc)/measurement device
cent/scent/sent US penny/perfume/dispatched
cents/scents US pennies/perfumes
cereal/serial breakfast dish/TV show
cession/session giving up/period of course
chance/chants luck/songs
chased/chaste pursued/like a virgin
cheap/cheep inexpensive/bird sound
chews/choose nibbles/select
chilly/chilli cold/hot food
choir/quire group of singers/unit of paper
chord/cord group of notes/string
chute/shoot disposal passage/take shot at goal
cite/sight/site quote/seeing/location
clause/claws paragraph/talons
coarse/course rough/track or route
colonel/kernel army rank/stone in fruit
complement/compliment go well with/say something nice
coo/coup sound of dove/revolution
core/corps centre/army unit
correspondence/correspondents letters/letter-writers
council/counsel governing body/advice
councillor/counsellor governor/advisor
creak/creek whine/stream
crews/cruise teams/voyage
cue/queue snooker tool/line of people waiting
currant/current dried fruit/electric flow
cymbal/symbol musical instrument/icon
dam/damn river barrier/damnation
days/daze 24-hour periods/confuse
dear/deer expensive/type of mammal
defused/diffused made safe/circulated
desert/dessert sandy zone/pudding
dew/do/due water on grass/finish/owed
die/dye expire/colour (verb)
discreet/discrete not talkative/separate
doe/dough/doh female dear/unbaked bread/oh, no
done/dun finished/grey-brown
draft/draught practise writing/on tap (eg beer)
dual/duel in two parts/fight with swords etc
earn/urn/ern or erne make money/vase/type of bird
ewe/you/yew female sheep/2nd person/type of tree
faint/feint lose consciousness/fake attack
fair/fare just/food
fated/feted destined/celebrated
faun/fawn rural god/beige or young deer
faze/phase  disturb/stage
feat/feet achievement/plural of foot
find/fined seek/told to pay money
fir/fur type of tree/animal hide
flair/flare talent/bullet making bright light
flea/flee type of insect/run away
flew/flu/flue past tense of fly/influenza/chimney
flocks/phlox herds/type of plant
flour/flower ingredient for bread/plant
for/four/fore to the benefit of/4/in front
fort/forte castle/speciality
forth/fourth forwards/4th
foul/fowl disgusting/birds
friar/fryer  monk/pan
gait/gate way of walking/door outside
gene/jean DNA unit/trousers
gild/guild cover in gold/organisation
gilt/guilt covered in gold/having done wrong
gored/gourd holed/fruit or water container
gorilla/guerrilla type of ape/freedom fighter
grate/great fireplace/grand
grease/Greece lubrication/a country
groan/grown moan/past tense of grow
guessed/guest past tense of guess/invitee
hail/hale celebrate/healthy
hair/hare strands growing on head/rabbit
hall/haul room/pull
hangar/hanger storage for aircraft/hook in wardrobe
hay/hey dried grass/oy
heal/heel/he’ll make well/back of foot/he will
hear/here listen/in this place
heard/herd past tense of hear/group of animals
heed/he’d pay attention to/he would or he had
hertz/hurts frequency unit/causes pain
hew/hue/Hugh cut/colour/a name
hi/high hello/raised
higher/hire more raised/rent
him/hymn a pronoun/religious song
hoard/horde collection/mass of people
hoarse/horse rough (of voices)/an animal
hoes/hose garden tools/tube
hold/holed keep or carry/past tense of hole
hole/whole space/entire
holey/holy/wholly with holes/sacred/completely
hour/our 60 minutes/a pronoun
humorous/humerus funny/arm bone
idle/idol lazy/religious statue
illicit/elicit illegal/draw out
in/inn inside/hotel
instance/instants example/moments
intense/intents fierce/purposes
it’s/its it is/belonging to it
jam/jamb fruit spread/door frame
kernel/colonel core/army rank
knap/nap crest/doze
knead/kneed/need mix dough/hit with knee/require
knight/night warrior/dark time
knit/nit fit together/egg of louse
knot/not tied rope/negative
know/no/Noh be aware of/negative/type of drama
knows/nose is aware of/facial feature
laid/lade past tense of lay/load ship
lain/lane past participle of lay/alley
lay/lei place/flower necklace
leach/leech leak/blood-sucking worm
lead/led heavy metal/past tense of lead
leak/leek drop out/vegetable
leased/least past tense of lease/superlative of less
lee/lea shadow of wind/meadow
lessen/lesson make less/teaching session
levee/levy embankment/tax
liar/lyre person who lies/musical instrument
license/licence permit (verb)/permission
lichen/liken mould/compare
lie/lye falsehood/alkali solution
links/lynx connections/wild cat
load/lode put into/vein of metal in ground
loan/lone lending/single
locks/lox secures/smoked salmon (American)
loot/lute money/musical instrument
made/maid created/young woman
mail/male post/masculine
main/mane/Maine chief/hair/state in USA
maize/maze corn/labyrinth
manner/manor way/lord’s house
mantel/mantle mentalpiece/coat
marshal/martial army rank/to do with war
massed/mast brought together/upright post on ship
maybe/may be perhaps/might be
meat/meet/mete type of food/get together/distribute
medal/meddle award/interfere
metal/mettle shiny material/spirit
might/mite may/tiny spider
mince/mints ground beef/plural of mint
mind/mined brain/dug up
miner/minor/mynah digger/junior/type of bird
missed/mist past tense of miss/fog
moan/mown groan/past participle of mow
mode/mowed way/past tense of mow
moose/mousse elk/foam
morn/mourn morning/regret
muscle/mussel part of body/sea creature
mustard/mustered spicy dressing/broughted together
naval/navel to do with the navy/belly button
nay/neigh no (dated)/sound of horse
none/nun not one/female monk
oar/or/ore blade/alternatively/metal source
ode/owed poem/due
oh/owe/o ah/have a debt of/oh (poetic)
overseas/oversees foreign/manages
pail/pale bucket/faint
pain/pane ache/window panel
pair/pare/pear couple/shave/type of fruit
palate/palette/pallet part of mouth/artist’s tray/platform
passed/past past tense of pass/in the past
patience/patients tolerance/people in hospital
pause/paws break/animal hands and feet
pea/pee vegetable/urinate
peace/piece harmony/bit
peak/peek/pique summit/look quickly/annoyance
peal/peel sound of bells/take skin off
pearl/purl precious stone/knitting stitch
pedal/peddle foot lever/sell
pedalled/peddled cycled/sold
peer/pier look carefully/jetty
per/purr for each/sound of a cat
pi/pie 3.14/dish topped with pastry
plain/plane unexciting/2D object
pleas/please requests (noun)/if it pleases you
plum/plumb type of fruit/measure water depth
pole/poll rod/election or survey
pore/pour concentrate on/flow
practice/practise rehearsal/rehearse
pray/prey talk to God/victim
presence/presents being somewhere/gifts
prince/prints son of monarch/printed photographs
principal/principle main/rule of conduct
profit/prophet money made/religious seer
rack/wrack wire tray/shipwreck
rain/reign/rein water from clouds/rule/control strap
raise/rays/raze lift/plural of ray/destroy
rap/wrap hit/pack up (eg a present)
rapped/rapt/wrapped past tense of rap/spellbound/past tense of wrap
read/red past tense of read/scarlet
read/reed study/type of plant
real/reel genuine/cylinder for fishing line etc
reek/wreak smell bad/cause
rest/wrest relax/wrench away
retch/wretch vomit/poor soul
review/revue look over/stage performance
right/rite/write correct/ritual/form Leopardtters
ring/wring sound of bell/squeeze out water
road/rode/rowed street/past tense of ride/past tense of row
roe/row female deer/use oars
role/roll part in play/type of bread
root/route part of plant/roads to take
rose/rows type of flower/tiers
rote/wrote repetition/past tense of write
rough/ruff coarse/Elizabethan collar
rung/wrung past tense of ring/squeezed water out
rye/wry cereal plant/mocking
sail/sale canvas propulsion/selling
scene/seen situation/past tense of see
scull/skull row alone/head of skeleton
sea/see ocean/be aware of
seam/seem sewn connection/appear
seas/sees/seize oceans/is aware of/grab
serf/surf agricultural worker/waves
sew/so/sow connect with thread/thus/plant
shear/sheer cut/complete
shoe/shoo footwear/chase away
side/sighed edge/past tense of sigh
sighs/size breathes out/dimensions
slay/sleigh kill/sled
sleight/slight deceptive skill/faint
soar/sore rise/painful
soared/sword past tense of soar/bladed weapon
sole/soul only/spirit
some/sum a few/total
son/sun male child/star in the sky
staid/stayed unadventurous/past tense of stay
stair/stare step/look hard
stake/steak wooden post/joint of meat
stationary/stationery motionless/writing materials
steal/steel run off with/metal compound
step/steppe stair/European plains
stile/style fence steps/manner
straight/strait not bending/narrow strip of water
suite/sweet hotel rooms/sugary
summary/summery brief account/to do with summer
surge/serge rush/type of cloth
tacks/tax nails/levy
tail/tale back end/story
taught/taut past tense of teach/tight
tea/tee meal/golf ball holder
team/teem group of players/swarm
tear/tier teardrop/row
tern/turn type of bird/go round a corner
their/there/they’re belonging to them/in that direction/they are
theirs/there’s the one belonging to them/there is
threw/through past tense of throw/in and out of
thrown/throne past participle of throw/royal chair
thyme/time type of herb/progress of days or years
tic/tick habit/mark (if correct)
tide/tied flow of water/past tense of tie
to/too/two towards/as well/2
toad/towed frog/past tense of tow
toe/tow part of foot/pull
told/tolled past tense of tell/rang
trussed/trust bound (with rope)/belief
vain/vane/vein proud/fin/artery
vale/veil valley/lace face covering (for brides etc)
vial/vile test tube/evil
wade/weighed walk in water/past tense of weigh
wail/whale howl/type of ocean mammal
waist/waste middle of body/use carelessly
wait/weight delay or stay/mass
waive/wave give up/breaker
ware/wear/where pottery/put on clothes/which place
way/weigh/whey manner/measure weight/part of milk
ways/weighs manners/measures weight
we/wee pronoun/urination or little
weak/week feeble/seven days
weather/whether climatic conditions/if
we’d/weed we would or we had/unwanted plant
we’ll/wheel we will or we shall/round component
wet/whet liquid/sharpen
we’ve/weave we have/make cloth
which/witch pronoun/wizard
while/wile as/ruse or cunning plan
whine/wine whimper/alcoholic grape drink
who’s/whose who is or who has/of whom the
wood/would tree material/conditional marker
yoke/yolk part of plough/yellow part of egg
yore/your/you’re former times/belonging to you/you are
you’ll/Yule you will or you shall/Christmas

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