homonyms & homophones

I read a lot of fanfic. Some of it has problems that pull me out of the moment, mostly due to homonyms. So I set out to make a list of the most commonly misused ones.  The first thing I discovered is that they aren’t all homonyms – most are homophones. The difference?

-nyms are spelled the same and sound the same, but mean different things. (bear = mammal & bear = tolerate)
-phones are spelled different but sound the same, and mean different things. (bear = ^^^ & bare = naked or plain)

Let me know if I’ve missed any of the many that drive you crazy.
Holy wow, friends and neighbors!  I’ve been inundated with suggestions.  Thanks for all your support.  😀

First, though – a couple of spectacular links shared by skaredykat:

(In which an Ancient device has an unanticipated effect.)

(In which rhymer23 makes beautiful snippets with common typos.)

ETA: ryhmer23 steered me toward a couple of entries with more:

Rest assured, I’ll be working on it as new entries come in.  (Latest update: 7/9/11)

Homonyms/Homophones, or Witch Won Too Yews (which one to use)
Dubsubtitle: Be careful – sometimes spellcheck is your fiend
SubtitleRetitle: Spellcheck: fiend or phough?
SubtitleThreetitle: Spill chick: fiend or pho?
(wouldn’t you like to join skaredykat and me in making up more subtitles?  Sure you would.  🙂  )

(which one to use)

word – definition Example
accept – to receive/agree She accepted the present happily./I accept the premise, but it’ll need testing.
except – all but All his brothers were home from college except Bradley.
ad – commercial Did you hear?  Some guy wanted to paint an ad on the space shuttle!  Even worse – it was for jock itch.
add – combine with “What’ll happen if I add horseradish to the cream cheese?” “I’ll never eat bagels ever again, for one.”
add – total/tot up No matter how she added up the numbers, her salary fell woefully short of her bills.
adverse – unfavorable The crew did the best they could under very adverse circumstances.
averse – opposed to She’s not averse to a long horseback ride once in a while.
advice – recommendation He hired the candidate on his co-worker’s advice
advise – give advice I’d advise you to avoid the oysters tonight – they look a little fishy.
affect – to cause a result How will the new tax code affect my take-home pay?
effect – the result Sunburn can be the effect of refusing to use sunscreen.
aid – help The Red Cross aids disaster victims, whether it’s a tsunami or apartment fire.
aide – assistant Prunella was the best aide the CEO had ever employed.
aisle – a walkway Meet me in the frozen food aisle, near the waffles.
I’ll – I will I’ll grab the salsa.
isle – a small island He was born on the Isle of Man.
a lot – a large quantity Did the supply ship bring a lot of coffee this time?
allot – divide evenly The kids allotted the candy amongst themselves, so the teacher didn’t have to.
aloud – spoken “You are aware that you proclaimed the judge to be a ninny aloud, right?”
allowed – permitted Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the campus.
altar – ceremonial table They lit the candles on the altar.
alter – change The ship had to alter course to avoid the approaching storm.
another think coming If you think I’m getting in that ugly dress…you’ve got another think coming!
assure – declare I assure you that I have no intention of stealing your waffles.
ensure – guarantee We’ve taken your teammate to ensure your compliance.
insure – replacement policy You should insure your house for the amount it would cost to rebuild it.
ate – past tense of eat They ate dinner at 7:30p.
eight – 8 Octopi have eight arms, squid have ten.
bare – naked As bare as the day she was born.
bear – carry A miniature horse can’t bear the weight of even the smallest adult.
bear – large mammal We saw a grizzly bear fishing for salmon.
bear – tolerate I cannot bear that elitist idiot!
base – bottom The urn was rosewood on a mahogany base.
base – military outpost Scott Air Force Base is one of the largest consumers of stewed okra.
bass – low in pitch The Oak Ridge Boy with the longest beard sang bass.
bated – held in We watched with bated breath as they tried to move the giant cake.
baited – containing bait See, Opie, you won’t catch anything ‘cause you haven’t baited your hook.
bath – water-filled tub I do my best thinking in the bath.
bathe – wash I’ll bathe my feet in the cool water of the mountain stream.
brake – stopping mechanism Hit the brakes, we’re gonna crash!
break – damage Did you really break your foot getting out of bed? (My mom did.)
breach – gap Once the cannons breached the wall, a Forlorn Hope was tasked with getting past the defenders.
breach – violation It’s a breach of trust for a lawyer to discuss client confidences.
breach – whale leap The orcas spent 15 minutes breaching around the tourist boat, prompting hundreds of photos.
breech – buttocks In a breech birth the butt or feet emerge first.
breech – clothe with pants “Now that you’re finally shirted, shod, and breeched, let’s get out to the Renaissance Faire.”
breech – gun part He racked the rifle’s bolt in order to insert his last cartridge into the breech.
breath – the air you breathe Take a deep breath and hold it.
breathe – act of respiration When you let it out again, that’s when you start to breathe.
broach – open a subject I hate to be the first to broach this subject, but – do we have enough water for two weeks?
brooch – decorative pin They told people they’d met when her brooch snagged on his sweater.  It isn’t true, though.
buy – obtain for money Can I buy you a drink?
by – near Please put it by the fireplace.
bye – goodbye Bye!  I’ll send you a postcard!
Calvary – crucifixion site Golgotha, biblically the site of the death of Christ, is also known as Calvary.
cavalry – mounted soldiers Tom fled from the cavalry– no way would he survive a tank encounter in his Yugo.
canapé – appetizer I hungry for Dad’s crab canapés.  If I had a lemon, I could make some.
canopy – bed overhang The mosquito netting canopy is vital for malaria prevention.
canopy – overhanging cover The building’s canopy protected her from the rain for all but the last two steps to the taxi.
carnal – lustful Last Tango in Paris illustrates a man’s descent into carnal pleasures.
charnel – dead body repository They walked across the battlefield, its charnel house air stunning them to silence.
cell – jail room The sheriff locked them in the cell, shaking his head in dismay.
sell – trade for money Why would you sell an original Pink Floyd album for $2?
chafe – rub If you try to walk home in those wets pants, you’ll definitely chafe.
chaff – grain husks Now’s the part of the training where we separate the wheat from the chaff.
chock – wedge They put a chock under the shed door to hold it open, in the hopes of a cooling breeze.
choke – strangle He reacted to the attempt to choke him with a swift, steel-toed kick in the balls.
choose – pick I can’t choose which toppings to have on my pizza.
chose – past tense of choose Jen chose to let her sister’s snarky remark go answered.
chord – multiple musical notes played together He couldn’t seem to make the transition from the B chord to an E.
cord – cable/rope She tripped over the phone cord./“Tie his hands with this cord, then throw him in the trunk.”
clench – shut tightly He clenched his teeth so hard that he cracked a molar.  She clenched her fist around her last dollar.
clinch – hug It’s surprising to walk in on your parents in a clinch until you remember that they’re actually real people, too.
clinch – settle That clinches it – we’re going to the Maldives this April.
cloth – woven fabric The blue velvet cloth was the loveliest he’d ever seen.
clothe – provide w/clothing After I fed and clothed you for sixteen years – this is how you repay me?!
clothes – apparel Jebus Cripes!!  Put some clothes on!
coach – athletic trainer Put me in, Coach.  I’m ready to play.
coach – carriage After the ball, Cinderella’s coach turned into the biggest pie the stepsisters had ever seen.
couch – sofa You’re gonna regret falling asleep on that particular couch.
coma – unconsciousness They considered putting him in a medical coma until his hair grew back.
comma – punctuation mark You can’t put a comma just anywhere in your sentence and expect it to still make, sense.
complement – a completer The white wine is the perfect complement to the fish.
compliment – praise I’d like to compliment you on your punctuality this morning, Spicoli.
conscience – sense of right His conscience wouldn’t let him take a reward for returning the lost wallet.
conscious – awake She was conscious during the brain surgery, as they needed her input to guide them.
conscious – aware I’m conscious that I risk a ticket every time I choose to speed.
copse – thicket The deer ran into the copse to find sanctuary from the hunters on horseback.
core – center Her refusal to move to Wenatchee was at the core of their problems.
Corp. – abbreviation Here at Corporal Corporation – Corp. Corp. for short – we believe in abbreviations.
corps – associated people So, are you in the ballet corps, the press corps, or the Marine Corps?
corpse – body There are only so many places you can hide a corpse in a travel trailer.
could’ve – could have I really could’ve gone for a double dip of pistachio today.
court marshal – no such thing DO NOT EVER USE THIS PHRASE – IT KILLS SNAIL DARTERS
court martial – military court Don’t worry, Dave.  The court martial will never convict you. (The plural is courts martial.)
court martial – trial/conviction I’ve never seen a court martial handed down over sunbathing before.
cue – hint, stimulus The yawn was her cue to put her book down and go to bed.
queue – long braid She didn’t have pigtails, so he had to tug her queue to show he liked her.
queue – line The queue for tickets stretched down the block and around the corner.
defense – resist attack The twenty foot high walls had proven to be the city’s best defense.
defence – the British spelling (I’m in Missouri – I’m not allowed to write in British.  😀 )
defiantly – disobediently (comes from defy) He defiantly wore his leather jacket to the Catholic high school dance.
definitely – positively (comes from definite) And you’re sure?  This is definitely the kid we’re supposed to grab?
defuse – make safe Can’t we – just once – wait for the bomb squad to defuse something?  Once?
defuse – reduce His quip defused the tension between the two men and prevented a brawl.
diffuse – scatter The lamp shade diffused the bulb’s bright light into a soft glow.
desert – arid region There are nearly a dozen deserts in Australia.  And one in Antarctica.
desert – abandon They can shoot you for desertion, you know.
dessert – sweet dish If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any dessert.
device – a machine Stand back, Colonel – I have no interest in finding out what that sparkly green device does.
devise – come up with Ooh, that’s the most cunning plan you’ve devised yet.
dew – moisture By the time she crossed the field, the dew had dampened her pants to the knee.
do – to perform What are we going to do now?
due – anticipated What time is the train due?
due – owed Finally, the powers that be started giving him the respect he was due.
die – singular of dice You’re crazy if you want to play Yahtzee with one die.
die – stop living What year did Mozart die?
dye – color I think I’ll dye my hair strawberry blonde.
died – stopped living/working My cat died last week./My cd player died.
dyed – colored My nieces dyed four dozen Easter eggs.
discreet – on the down-low They had to be discreet, or risk getting caught.
discrete – distinct She sorted the coins into discrete piles; nickels, dimes, pennies and quarters.
draw – attraction Raja the elephant is one of the biggest draws at the St. Louis Zoo.
draw – sketch I can draw.  I just can’t draw well.
drawer – sliding compartment The spare keys are in the desk drawer.
dying – approaching death I think I’m dying – those jalapenos were hot!
dyeing – coloring currently I’m tie-dyeing shirts in the tub.  Porcelain doesn’t stain, right?
eek – expression of surprise “Eek!  I thought I saw a human!” the mouse squeaked.
eke (out) – work to survive She was barely able to eke out a living, farming the land by herself.
elicit – bring out Big brown puppy eyes always elicited the desired response – petting and/or treats.
illicit – illegal or immoral Drug dealers make their money by illicit means – in both senses of the word.
facilities – buildings About two blocks past the Sorkin research facilities, you’ll come to the Zoo entrance.
facilities – restrooms “Excuse me.  Are the facilities for public use?”
faculties – powers of the mind Though he’d been ill for a long time, he was still in full possession of his faculties.
faze – disconcert Jim didn’t let the talking giant panda faze him.  He’d met her before.
phase – a stage Most teenagers seem to go through an anti-social phase.
flair – aptitude Mark seems to have a real flair for the clarinet.
flare – burn unsteadily Willie couldn’t make out what was on the walls by the dim flare of the torch.
flare – blaze The fire flared up wildly when they tried to extinguish it with vodka.
flare – spread outward Bell-bottomed jeans can flare up to 30 inches wide.
flaunt – show off He flaunted his lotto winnings by driving a gold-plated Humvee.
flout – treat with disdain She flouted societal norms by wearing a bathing costume that left her ankles bare.
for – a preposition Is that banana for me?
fore – warning in golf “FORE!”         Thwack! thud        “Bzuh?”
four – 4 Unlike football, hockey doesn’t have four quarters.
gravelly – like gravel Three nights with too little sleep had left his voice deep and gravelly.
gravely – in a serious manner “Come in,” she said gravely.  “There’s something we need to discuss.”
griping – complaining His griping was about to drive her to pitch him out of the semi’s cab.
gripping – hanging onto He was gripping the railing tightly, but still felt he might be blown off the Observation Deck.
hangar – plane storage The tornadoes damaged the hangar, but somehow left the five Cessnas intact.
hanger – clothes storage She snatched her blouse from the hanger, which flipped off the rod and hit her in the nose.
heal – make better Granny always said a good dose of cod liver oil could heal any ailment.
heel – back part of the foot Backing away from the clown, he caught his heel on the rail and tripped.
he’ll – he will Have a seat.  He’ll be with you in a minute.
hear – sense with the ear Didn’t you hear me calling you?
here – this place Hey, what are you doing here?
hoard – stockpile/stash He hoarded his Halloween candy./His hoard usually lasted into the New Year.
horde – large group The enemy horde surrounded them and demanded their surrender.
hour – sixty minutes I’ll meet you at the foot of the west staircase in one hour.
our – belonging to us You’d better be there, or all our friends will come and drag you out.
idle – not active I’d love to win the Lotto and spend my days being lazy and idle.
idol – false god The golden calf is the best idol – you can sell it to raise cash for your getaway.
imply – insinuate (The one talking/writing implies.) Did you just imply that I make my money turning tricks?
infer – draw a conclusion (The one hearing/reading infers.) It’s easy to infer her bad mood by the number of curse words she’s using.
its – belonging to it The dog leapt on the couch with its rawhide bone.
it’s – it is/it has It’s good to see you./It’s been a while.
lathe – woodworking tool He turned out all six table legs in no time, thanks to his new lathe.
lave – wash They watched the momma cat lave her newborn kittens thoroughly.
lead – soft metal (pb) (pronounced = led ) One theory posits that using lead-based paints caused Van Gogh’s irrational behavior.
lead – go first (pronounced = leed) You can lead a tribble to water, but you’ll need conditioner afterwards.
led – past tense of lead He led their tiny band past the bolt-hole of the fearsome Jablayama bird.
lets – allows My mom lets me stay up ‘til 10pm.
lets – rents Just because she lets her apartment every summer, don’t plan on staying there next year.
let’s – let us Let’s all go to the lobby – and get a bite to eat!
lo – look “Lo and behold!  The King has proclaimed this child to be his son and heir!”
low – cow sound The cattle lowing in the field next door worked better than a lullaby.
low – not high He tripped over the low table, placed inconveniently just inside the doorway.
loath – reluctant He was loath to admit that his favorite flavor was pink bubble gum.
loathe – feel disgust for I loathe people who throw their cigarette butts out the car window.
loose – opposite of tight They’re coming.  Have you gotten those ropes loose yet?
loose – unrestrained If you’d remember to shut the corral door, the horses wouldn’t be running around loose.
lose  – opposite of find If I have to listen to that song one more time I’m going to lose my mind!
mat – protective pad Wipe your feet on the mat./The gymnast landed on the mat after losing his grip.
Matt – a name Matt is usually short for Matthew, but my given name is Mattius.
matte – not glossy I much prefer my photos to have a matte finish.
moot – of no practical value “Whether the suspect’s shoes were black or brown is entirely moot, Your Honor.”
mute – incapable of speech The gagged man watched in mute horror as the elevator swiftly descended.
mute – deaden sound Can somebody please mute that Pantera?!  I can’t hear myself think!
morning – before noon She started every morning the same way – with a good, long nap.
mourning – grieving He spent the rest of his life mourning his lost love.
offense – a violation Around here, we consider stealing chickens a very serious offense.
offence – the British spelling (I’m in Missouri – I’m not allowed to write in British.  😀 )
one – 1 He prefers one lump of sugar in his milky tea.
won – past tense of win The Cardinals won the game by getting three runs in the ninth.
won – earned She won a giant panda at the county fair’s shooting gallery.
pair – two of a kind The dealer won with a pair of jacks.
pare – trim In his nervous state, he pared his nails to the quick.
pear – fruit There’s no partridge in that pear tree.
palate – roof of the mouth He couldn’t wait to drink his coffee, and ended up burning both his tongue and palate.
palette – paint-holding tool I’ve heard of painters using phonebook pages as a palette, to save on clean-up time.
palette – color range I’d like to paint my dining room in the palette between leaf and emerald green.
pallet – bed They made a pallet of their discarded clothes, and slept soundly.
pallet – slatted wooden platform for transport He lost his job as a forklift driver after dropping three pallets of perfume in one week.
passed – past tense of pass I passed my test!
passed – to go by They passed on the sidewalk without even a glance.
past – time gone by All the bad times are in the past.
peak – high point The air is awfully thin at the peak of Mt. Everest.
peek – sneak a look What?  You never peek at your Christmas presents?
pique – to interest His curiosity was piqued by the odds sounds in the attic.
pique – wounded pride He broke his remote-controlled car in a fit of pique.
peal – bell ringing The cathedral’s bell pealed the quarter hour.  96 times every day.
peel (out) – pull away fast He peeled out from the curb, racing after the bank robbers.
peel – remove He peeled sixteen tangelos to get enough sections for the canapés.
peel – rind Chocolate covered orange peel seems an odd candy, to me.
per se – in itself We’re not against the pig farm per se.  We’re worried about the waste disposal aspect.
poor – not rich/pitiable I’m too poor to buy a ticket./Poor kitty, left out in the rain.
pore – to study intently She pored over the Latin tome, seeking the vital clue.
pore – a skin opening The red clay dust clogged his pores, making him feel even filthier.
pour – to decant He poured water over her hair to rinse out the shampoo.
principal – main The principal objection to the new bridge is the cost.
principal – school official As soon as you get all the glue out of your hair, please go see the principal.
principal – starting stake I’m earning 5.5% on my principal.  These days that’s good.
principle – fundament The principles of physics don’t allow for flying pigs.
principle – code of conduct His principles wouldn’t let him accept a reward for returning the wallet.
prostate – a male gland The prostate controls urine release and supplies part of the fluid in semen. (For dirtier examples, see other list.)
prostrate – to lay face down The Chinese emperor demanded that the visitors prostrate themselves before him.
rack – storage framework Put the cumin in the spice rack, willya?  My hands are full.
wrack – damage After five tortuous hours the storm passed, leaving wrack and ruin in its wake.
wreak – inflict The army wreaked havoc on the townspeople, suspecting them of collusion.
wreck – destroy “Wow, you’re like the anti-Midas.  You wreck everything you touch.” “So did he, in the end.”
rain – precipitation Looks like it’s gonna rain later.
reign – rule During the reign of Queen Victoria, long skirts were de rigueur.
reign over – be in charge of Don’t let your heart reign over your head, or vice versa.
rein – part of a bridle She tugged on the reins to slow her panicking horse to a trot.
rein in – control She tried to rein in her anger.
give free rein – don’t limit He gave free rein to his appetite and ended up with a bellyache.
raise – lift up/build Raise your hand if you know./They’re having a barn raising this weekend.
raze – tear down The fire damage was so severe that they had to raze the garage and start over.
read – peruse printed text (pronounced = reed) I taught myself to read at the age of four.
read – past tense of read (pronounced = red) I have read almost too much fanfiction.  (never!)
red – a color Red and most shades of pink clash, in my opinion.
right – correct Yes, King Friday.  Once again, you are right.
right – legal or moral claim You have the right to free speech.
rite – ceremony The natives agreed to trade if the visitors were willing to undergo their rite.
write – communicate with letters and words How’s about you write down what salary you expect on this slip, and pass it to me?
wright – maker Our small town still boasts a wheelwright, a cartwright, a playwright, and two coopers.
ringer – doorbell part Keep pushing the button.  The ringer will wake them eventually.
ringer – phone part I turned the ringer off so I could sleep longer.
wringer – squeezing rollers Run the clothes through the wringer and hang them on the line. http://frugal.families.com/blog/using-a-wringer-washer
road – street Apparently, there’s a long and winding road.
rode – past tense of ride She rode her horse in three events at the county fair.
rogue – renegade The kidnapping was planned by a rogue government faction.
rouge – cheek make-up Raggedy Ann applies her rouge a little too enthusiastically.
scaring – frightening Dude, take off that mask.  You’re scaring the new neighbors.
scarring – wound reminder If you rub this on the wound daily, it should reduce the scarring.
scents – odors They could smell the delicious scents wafting up from the bakery on the first floor.
sense – detect She could sense the dog watching her, willing her to drop the burger.
since – from then ‘til now I haven’t seen you since the great bratwurst debate of 2008!
seal – aquatic mammal Elephant seals can hold their breath for over 100 minutes.
seal – bond I forgot to seal the envelope and it arrived completely empty.
seal – embossed emblem The notary set his seal on the document, making it official.
SEAL – naval special ops McGarrett put his SEAL training to good use while rescuing Grace from the smugglers’ lair.
seam – meeting point Her sleeve was torn clean off at the shoulder seam.
seem – appear The tiny dog’s grip was stronger than would seem possible.
shear – cut The helicopter’s tail rotor sheared his arm just above the elbow.
sheer – see-through His nipple piercing was clearly visible through his sheer tank top.
sheer – steep How you survived falling down that sheer cliff escapes me!
sheath – blade storage He carefully wiped off the knife before sliding it back into its sheath.
sheathe – to put into a sheath Sheathe your weapons, gentlemen.  We are here to parley.
should’ve – should have I should’ve paid that bill last week.
shudder – tremble She shuddered to think what would have happened if she been in the other car.
shutter – camera part The click of the shutter betrayed the hidden spy.
shutter – protective cover Close the shutters and find the candles before the storm hits.
sight – one of the five senses Sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell comprise the list.
sight – an attraction The Arch, the zoo, and the Anheuser-Busch brewery are famous St. Louis sights.
site – a location Can you bring the plumbing plans to the building site?
site – web page(s) The site crashed after over 200,000 visitors tried to download the free tickets in the first hour.
cite – to use as proof He cited three occasions where they had done the same thing.
sink – basin He threw the measuring cup in the sink – two points.
sink – fall She watched them kiss and felt her heart sink.  She’d arrived too late.
sync/synch – match up Movie watching is very frustrating when the picture and sound don’t synch.
sole – lone She was the sole support for their family of seven.
sole – fish I’ll have the Dover sole in lemon, with a side of parsnips, thanks.
soul – spirit You have the soul of a poet, though you don’t believe it.
sooth – truth In sooth, I’m not attracted to men in metal suits.  Sorry.
soothe – calm About every 28 days, I use chocolate to soothe my hormonal urge to hit people.
steal – thieve Who would steal my necklace?  It’s only worth about $2!
steel – brace She steeled herself; the look on his face could only mean bad news.
steel – metal I’d love an 8 cup stainless steel mixing bowl with a tight lid for storage.
suit – jacket & pants/skirt set The tweed suit was far too heavy for Atlanta in August.
suite – connected rooms The kids stayed in the far rooms of the hotel suite.
suite – a furniture group She bought the three-piece bedroom suite in a maple finish.
sweet – sugary/pleasing The frosting was sweet./The violins sang sweetly.
taught – past tense of teach Mrs. Flaherty taught high school Spanish for 37 years. ¡Pobrecita!
taunt – tease Don’t taunt the lions.  They can scale the fence.
taut – tight The sharp southeasterly wind snapped the sails taut.
than – (use to compare) Rhode Island is a lot smaller than Tennessee.
then – (use to indicate) Things were simpler back then. ||His eyes looked green, then gray. || We ate, then sang a few songs.
their – belonging to them Their kids are in college.
there – not here I left my book there.
they’re – they are They’re coming over for dinner.
throes – spasm The bittersweet chocolate sent his tastebuds into throes of pleasure.
throws – hurls You should really duck when he throws his curveball.  His control isn’t perfect.
throws – light blankets Do you really need throws on every chair?  C’mon, even in the dining room?
tic – spasm/habit The nerve damage left him with an eyelid tic./His verbal tic of ending every sentence with, “Right” was tiring.
tick – clock sound The only sound other than the ticking of the clock was the dog snoring in the den.
tick – parasite Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease.
to – transfer/travel She gave the cookie to him./We’re going to Grandma’s.
too – also I like vanilla, too.
two – 2 Two cones with sprinkles, please.
toe – digit of the foot She wriggled her toes in the black volcanic sand.
toe – touch with the toe(s) His bath was getting a bit chilly so he stretched to toe the hot water on.
tow – pull AAA is on their way to tow us out of the ditch.
toad – amphibian Most toads have dry skin and live the majority of their lives on land.
toed – past tense of toe He toed the pile of laundry, hoping it wasn’t what his mom wanted to ‘discuss’.
towed – past tense of tow Michael towed the derelict boat ashore, for a very reasonable sum.
tongue – mouth organ She waggled her tongue, showing off her bright silver piercing.
use – employ I think I’ll use the really big skillet for this batch of pancakes.
yews – plural of yew (a tree) The manor’s winding driveway was lined by a hedge of yews.
use to – employ in order 1) Unfold entrenching tool.  2) Use to dig foxhole.  3) Take cover.
used to – accustomed I’m not used to clerks fawning over me.
used to – once We used to play outside unsupervised all day, without our parents fearing for our safety.
vain – excessively proud Charles was vain about his Trump-like combover, and refused to consider a new do.
vane – blade moved by air The weathervane indicated a southerly breeze.
vein – blood vessel Veins carry blood cells back to the heart after they’ve imparted their oxygen load.
vein – mineral deposit Scar chased his vein of gold ‘til the mine finally dropped it on his head.
vice – immoral or bad habit He’s such an innocent; his worst vice is watching Big Brother.
vise – clamp Jethro locked the board in the vise to ensure accurate cutting of the tenons.
vicious – malicious He wasn’t really the vicious despot he’d been made out to be.
viscous – sticky The alfredo sauce had dried to a viscous paste that would be hell to wash off.
waist – mid-torso He slung the holster’s belt around his waist as he ran out.
waste – spend uselessly You can waste your time in the casino.  I’ll be in the pool.
waive – give up You waived your rights to a sandwich when you stole my muffin at breakfast.
wave – hand signal He watched the kids wave goodbye as he walked toward the TSA groping area.
waiver – release form You have to sign the waiver before they’ll let you use the pool.
waver – be undecided He wavered between vanilla and butter pecan before deciding to get two scoops.
waver – flicker The flashlight beam wavered briefly before it failed, leaving them in the Stygian basement.
waver – sway The wheat wavered hypnotically under the gentle breeze.
wait – remain We’ll wait for the train here.
weight – pounds Contents sold by weight, not volume.  Some settling may have occurred.
wander – roam aimlessly The beautiful weather yesterday encouraged me to wander through the park.
wonder – think about Do you ever wonder where we’re all going to end up?
wanton – lewd Only a wanton woman would wear a dress that low-cut and form-fitting.  (Yay for wanton women.)
wonton – Chinese dumpling Do they have wonton soup, or only hot and sour?
wares – goods The Girl Scouts sold their delicious wares at a table in front of the Schnucks.
wear – cause deterioration Hard to believe that water could wear away rock into a cave over three miles long.
wear – use as clothing I don’t usually wear a feather boa to work, but it’s Casual Friday.
where – in or at what place Where are my false eyelashes?  We’re headed out for karaoke.
weak – not strong His grip was too weak to prevent the saboteur from falling to his death.
week – seven days I’ll see you in a week!
wet – moisten or soak He often flicked his tongue out to wet his lips in the most distracting manner.
whet – sharpen The frosty day’s activities only whetted her appetite.
which – what one Which surfboard do you like best?
witch – practitioner of magic I’m Glenda, the Good Witch of the East.
whine – complain What are you whining about?  I’m the one with an arrow in my foot!
whine – low nasal cry The puppies whined for twenty minutes before their mom got back in the box with them.
wine – fermented grapes Do you prefer red wine with your mac and cheese, or white?
who’s – who is/who has Who’s there?/Who’s been sitting in my chair?
whose – belonging to who Whose light saber is sticking out of that bush?
wont – habit I stayed up ‘til 6am last night, as is my wont.
won’t – will not As a result, I won’t be bright as a daisy at work today.
wood – the flesh of a tree Morgan automobiles have a frame made out of wood.
would – was willing He said he would go to the store and pick up the toothpaste.
would’ve – would have I would’ve given you a massage if I’d known you needed one so badly.
yore – time past In days of yore, knights saved fair maidens from despoilment.
your – belonging to you I found your car keys in the freezer.
you’re – you are You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.

73 thoughts on “homonyms & homophones

  1. You might want to include:

    And, the horror of horrors: have/of (as in “would of” – argh!)

    1. I have the first one, but will add the other two. I’d planned to keep it strictly homophones, but that went out the window when I typed suite/suite/suit/sweet. I might as well admit it right off, rather than have to go back later and interweave them all in.

      Good choices – the would of/should of/could of tweaks me, too. Thanks!

  2. rite/right. And write – but it’s the first two that most often seem to get switched around.

    Good list! I only wish I thought that the people who need it would read it!

  3. Cool resource. 🙂

    A pet peeve of mine is a non-homomphone pair of words that people think are homophones: loathe (verb, as in “I loathe bad grammar”) versus “loath” (adjective, as in “I am loath to post fic unbetaed”). They are pronounced — and spelled — differently!

    1. Thanks!

      I planned to leave non-homophones off, but since my original list already has one (suite/suit) … I think I was fooling myself. :>

      I’ll add yours, as well as its brethren; cloth, clothe; breath, breathe; [the other one I can’t think of at this moment]. Thanks for the input!

  4. You are so much more polite than the last time I wrote up examples.


    Here are a few more that I hit often as a beta. I’ll leave you to come up with representative sentence if needed. 😀

    bear – carry


    toe – touch with a toe? (He needed to toe the line in order to avoid deportation.)




    read – past and present tense – English is so frustrating!

    vise (although I’ve informed ‘c’ instead of ‘s’ is acceptable British spelling it throws me out of the story every time.)








    due (I constantly see people using ‘make due’)

    Not exactly homonyms but these are often misused.








    1. Ho, boy! I knew I could count on you. 😀

      I actually left a couple of these off the list, in the (obviously mistaken) belief that nobody really switched them (hour/our). It’s possible that I’ve seen them, but blocked them out, my brain unable to process the horror of the language mangling. :hee:

      Thanks for the riches! (Now I’m gonna have to go read your mean list. :anticipatory gleeful villainous hand washing:

  5. You’re going to put us beta readers out of business! LOL

    Nice list, though. I particularly cannot stand seeing the misuse of taut/taunt (with the occasional taught thrown in the mix, lol).

    1. BIG LOL
      I sincerely doubt that. There are plenty other things that can go horribly wrong. Logic stuff, like – ‘Um, Walter? How can John run both hands down Rodney’s back when his left arm’s in a sling?’ Stuff like that – that no table can solve. 😀

      ‘taught’! I knew I’d forgotten something. I’ll add it. Thanks!

  6. your and you’re. If I read another “Your going to do what?!?” I think I’ll pluck out my eyes.

    Our, hour, and are. You wouldn’t THINK these would be a problem…but, yeah. *shakes head*

    Then and than. One is an INDICATION the other is a comparison. This one is CONSISTENTLY a problem.

    1. The one that really kills me is there/their/they’re. To the point where that’s the first thing I typed. “Watch out! Their behind you!” :shakes head in dispair:

      Thanks for the additions. I’m typing as fast as I can go. (In between chuckling, natch.)

  7. What about prostate vs prostrate? Only in slash would you need to know the difference! Also, with site, how about an entry for a computer site? How about an entry for loose vs lose. I know they’re not homophones, but they get mixed up a lot. And, finally, used to instead of use to.

    Thanks so much for posting this list. Some of these drive me crazy! Too many, and I stop reading altogether. When I see prostrate for prostate, I can’t hit the back button fast enough!

    1. I’ve seen that! The giggles totally killed the mood. And since (scents?) I mostly read slash, that’s a very important one.
      I didn’t figure people on the web would need the ‘site’ citation, but if you’ve seen it – on it goes!
      I planned to stick to homophones, but blew it right out of the gate (suite/suite/suit/sweet). And, as loose/lose makes me mental, too – on, as well! 😀

      I once told an author that the image of the coffeepot ‘peculating’ made me laugh out loud. I could just picture it working up its nerve to cook the books instead of the beans, and planning its vacation in sunny Hawaii. She thanked me profusely … and never changed it. I still laugh.

    2. I’ve done a tiny bit of research on the used to/use to thing and, I have to confess, I am completely at sea. I can’t figure out from what they say – what the hell they mean. Can you give me definitions and examples that would fit in the slots above? Thanks!

      (This and lie/lay escape me. I generally just write around it by choosing to say it different ways. 😀 )

      1. I might be able to help with this one. “Used to” – thing we are accustomed to doing/seeing/having. (have grown used to). “We used to take the train home every afternoon.” “She is used to getting her own way.” “It’s not what I’m used to, but I will learn to deal.”

        “Use to” is really awkward, unless it’s something directive like, “Take shovel and use to dig hole.”

        Does that help make it clearer?

        1. That’s actually how I see them, too. However, I somehow read her comment to read that she felt “used to” wasn’t correct, and “use to” was. I now see that it says nothing of the sort – I must have been Dr. Pepper deficient.

          I’ll add ’em in the next round. Thanks for bringing me back into it for a second look.

    1. \o/
      I’m sort of hoping that commenters will gently point them in this direction, to prevent future occurrences.

      Do they really switch wood/would? Holy criminy – it’s on the list! Thanks!

  8. heh, you would be surprised at the number of instances of here/hear I run across. Mostly ESL writers, though.

    very cool list!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m sure I’ve seen that one … and then hung my head and sighed for a moment, before reading on. 😀 It’s not the worst, though. I once read a story where a character, upon completing some task, announced, “Wa-la.” Wa-freaking-la. I ask you. :shakes head:

      I’ll add it. English is hard (mainly because we plunder other languages for words we like – and then change ’em. Some of them. Sometimes. Tricksy!


  9. This is awesome!

    I have one addition:

    flare: They sent up a flare and waited for help.


    flair: She had a flair for interior design.

    Also, you might note that when it comes to tension, defuse is correct. (It’s used figuratively to mean breaking the tension to prevent an interpersonal explosion.

  10. Thank you for (besides all the rest of the awesome) including gravely vs. gravelly — that one always bugs me. Also “he said, lowly” — ack! yes, that annoys me too — lowly means humble or low in status (“I’m Merlin, your lowly servant,” he said), not how you indicate that someone says something in a low/quiet voice!

    1. Oh, the gravely tones. It almost makes the blowjob not even worth it. :snerk:

      On ‘lowly’ – that one’s actually correct. It’s an adverb meaning ‘in a quiet voice’, according to Dictionary.com. I think it’s one of those that isn’t as common a usage, so it seems a bit off.

  11. Whee! 2 more for you (*slightly grits teeth*)
    court marshal instead of court martial, and the always-exciting confusion between palate, palette, and pallet.

    1. what the hell??! I read the comment, I reacted to the comment … I just never responded to the comment. I am a bad blogger! Sorry ’bout that, and thanks for all your contributions.

      I just posted an announcement on the Hawaii Five-0 noticeboard, hoping that some of their writer/beta sets could benefit. (There’s a lot of ‘discrete’ going on over here.)

    1. Again, yay!! It didn’t even occur to me to check if comments were still working on this one. Hu-der! That’s sort of how my brain’s day went, though. Saw the doctor, then was waiting to make the next appointment when a nurse came by and said, “You left your purse in the exam room.” I replied, “Yes, but you notice that I’ve got my book right here.” 😀

      1. ::snark::

        I just perused the list, because I got confused over “vein/vane/vain”. It’s missing from here, too! 🙂 Can you add them along with “mute” versus “moot”? And yes, the phrase, “a mute point” kills baby harp seals.

        And the thing I just sent for you to beta. Diffuse versus defuse? 🙂

  12. I didn’t think you’d have to, but since I just read this:

    This show is like the greatest add for Hawaii tourism ever.

    I think you’re going to have to include “AD” versus “ADD”. ::sigh::

  13. I’ve got 1 that isn’t already on the list:

    “breach” (break) vs. “breech” (as in a “breech”, or rearend first, birth).

      1. Another 1 that bugs the life out of me, that’s specific to the 2010 Hawaii Five-0 fandom & HAS attempted to be corrected by others in posts to LiveJournal Comms for the show (but without much success, so far), is:

        Steve McGarrett in the show is a Navy SEAL (SEAL in all capital letters–it’s an acronym), formerly on Active Duty, now on Reserve Duty since agreeing to head the Five-0 task force for Governor Jameson.

        Many writers in that fandom (whether it’s Slash or Het/Gen Fic), however, call Steve a Navy Seal (capital S, the rest of the letters in lower case).

        Or else they call him a Navy seal (no capitals in SEAL at all).

        Maybe that isn’t valid for your list, but it’s a language misuse which bugs me when I see it in a fic.

        And, BTW, I got the “breach” vs. “breech” 1 thanks to reading a phrase like “(name of character breeched (name of other character)’s opening” in love scenes, when the writer means to say “(name of character) breached (name of other character)’s opening”. Or something similar.

        1. I’ll add that one, too. It may be on Wednesday, at work, since the version of Word on my desktop is too old to work with my file. I’ve emailed myself a list of all of those you guys have sent. Or the laptop might get fixed tomorrow. (Beware of flying monkeys!) 🙂

          Thanks for playing!

  14. One I see a lot is conscience/conscious. I have no idea why, but a lot of characters seem to have a guilty conscious.

  15. I have another for you that’s not on the list:

    “elicit” vs. “illicit”. Reminded of it while reading a fic just now. The writer used “illicit” when they should’ve used “elicit”.

    1. Sorry–thought of another:

      “eek” (a word that’s screamed) vs. “eke” (“to eke out”).

      1. And yet another that doesn’t seem to be on the list: “aid” (to assist) vs. “aide” (an Assistant to someone–usually someone “in power”, like a President or other government official).

  16. This one actually brought me into fan fiction… found a writer who, when faced with a choice of words, would *always* pick the wrong one. And she would always get these two backwards, without fail.

    Aloud — not silent
    Allowed — permissible

    1. I related this to Walter, and he couldn’t believe that anyone could actually confuse them.

      Sadly, I can.

      Thanks. They’re in the queue for going on the list.

  17. Yet another: “waiver” (usually a legal document absolving a person, organization, etc., from being sued for legal damages in the event of an accident or some other situation) vs. “waver” (go back & forth, as with an opinion)

  18. And another… I just ran into this in a fic I’m reading.

    “clench/clenched” (like in “clench your fist”) vs. “clinch/clinched” (an embrace). The writer in the fic I’m reading right now used “clinched” when they (as far as I know) should’ve used “clenched”.

  19. Could you please add conscious/conscience? If I see one more person knocked unconcience in a fic, I’m going to strangle myself.

    1. Thanks for contributing! It is on my list on pairs to add, but I’m having laptop issues at the moment, and the Word on my desktop is so old that the file won’t open. As soon as I get the laptop fixed (or get to work tomorrow :D), I’m gonna work on it.

      (And please don’t strangle yourself. Once you lose consciousness your grip will slacken, and all you’ll have is a very sore throat. It doesn’t solve the problem at all. :))

  20. I keep running across a lot of people who don’t, apparently, know the difference between ‘infer’ and ‘imply’

    For example. I’ve just read a line in a fic (suitably disguised here so as not to embarrass the author:
    A looked contemplative. “I believe that phrase might infer actual death.”

    Well, no. A phrase can’t infer anything at all. The phrase might IMPLY death, and character A is INFERRING that meaning from what’s being implied.

    1. That’s a good point. How to simplify it, though? Maybe something like “only the person who hears/sees the phrase/sight can infer. The other party is


      “? I’ll add it in the next batch (though gods know when that will be).

  21. Love the list. Too many people rely way too heavily on spell check. Might I add one of my pet peeves? stoke/stroke? If I see one more instances of someone’s hair or skin being stoked I may just have to scream.

    And yes, I have seen people stroking fires. There’s a mental pic that’ll stay with ya!

    1. Holy cow! I just got the notification for this TODAY! Something is wrong with the site – it turned the comments OFF over on the AU list page. Crazy!

      Thanks for the suggestion – I’ll add it in the next batch.

      (I guess the fire strokers are like really advanced fire walkers?) 😛

      1. Commenting’s been turned off on the AU page for months- since there hadn’t been any additions, I just assumed Forces Beyond Your Control had made you unable to give it any attention.

        1. Yeah, we just found that out two or three days ago. It’s back on again now. This is the second time it’s turned itself off, and Walter thinks he’s fixed the problem. Time will tell (technology doesn’t like me).

          I have been slacking to a woeful degree. First there was getting ready for the August Chicago Con. Then there was recovering from same. Then there was finding out that I was losing my job and having to look for another one. I’m still on the job hunt. On the other hand, I’m home all day and I still haven’t been able to convince myself to shift my slacker ass to get the thing updated. I’ve got about a dozen stories to add, most of them in esteefee and squidgie’s Pope John series. I hope to do it this weekend, but I’ve had that hope before without result.

          Thanks for your continuing interest. I promise that I will get back on top of it shortly. (I’ve hired a guy with a whip to urge me on.) 😀

  22. Homg.
    I so get you!
    One that always bugs me is ‘Follow/Fallow’. The only reason for people getting this wrong I can think of, is because of the author’s dialect (I tried different accents to see if my theory was plausible, haha).
    I never even knew ‘fallow’ was even a word~ but it turns out it’s something to do with uncultivated land, so that’s why spell-check didn’t pick it up!

    Oh, and you can’t forget the classic your/you’re mistake. I don’t mind if they do it once, because it’s a simple mistake that my fingers miss sometimes, but multiple times? Grr.

    1. It throws you right out of the story, doesn’t it? Grr. Another one is “opps”. Really? That’s not even close to how it sounds. I’ll add fallow/follow in the next round, probably after I recover from the holiday. 🙂

      Thanks for contributing!

      1. Hey – and I just learned there’s fiancé (male that is to wed) versus fiancée (female that is to wed). I think most of the fic I read is always fiancé when it should be fiancée.

        Food for thought? 🙂

  23. I have one that isn’t a homonym or a homophone but it gave me a good chuckle and I wanted to share. I no longer recall the fandom but the author was trying to put the character in a brassiere but they ended up wearing a brazier. I had to give them points for trying!

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