13 English Words That Change Meanings With Pronunciation

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation present

English pronunciation is like the cuckoo that is born in a crow’s nest.

— Jims Varkey

In our previous posts on language, we met the phantoms of the English language – the Phantonyms, and the two-faced Janus words – the Contronyms. The former mean something totally different from what they sound like, while the latter mean one thing and also its exact opposite! In this post, let us introduce you to the chameleons of the English language – the Heteronyms.

Heteronyms (hetero- “different” + onym “name”) are words that have the same spelling but whose meanings change when they are pronounced differently. Visually, these words appear identical. But just like a chameleon changes its color according to its surroundings, these words change their pronunciation and their meaning according to the context.

So let’s find out how and where these chameleons hide and what colors they take on.

 

1. Read

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation readIf you read (pronounced REED) a book a month, you would have read (pronounced RED) twelve books in a year.

 

2. Project

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation project
In order to project (pronounced proJEKT) your project (pronounced PROHjekt) you would need a projector.

 

3. Minute

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation minuteOne minute (pronounced MINNit) is 60 seconds but a newborn has minute (pronounced myNEWT) feet.

 

4. Desert

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation desertDon’t desert (pronounced dihZURT) your friends in the desert (pronounced DEZert).

 

5. Tear

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation tearIf you tear (pronounced TARE) a book it may bring tears (pronounced TEER) in the eyes of a book lover.

 

6. Row

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation rowParking your bicycle in a row (pronounced ROH) can avoid a row (pronounced RAU).

 

7. Present

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation present
I want to present (pronounced preeSENT) you a present (pronounced PREZent) on your birthday.

 

8. Dove

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation doveWhen I dove (pronounced DOEV) into the water I saw a dove (pronounced DUV) fly away.

 

9. Live

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation liveTo live (pronounced LIV) is to enjoy life, while live (pronounced LYVE) music is the one happening right now.

 

10. Lead

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation leadLead (pronounced LED) is a metallic element, while to lead (pronounced LEED) is to guide someone.

 

11. Wind

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation windEnjoy the wind (pronounced WINd), but remember to wind (pronounced WHINEd) your watch.

 

12. Bow

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation bowYou can wear a bow (pronounced BOH) tie to your party and then bow (pronounced BAU) to welcome your guests.

 

13. Console

heteronym same spelling different pronunciation consoleI used my gaming console (pronounced KONsole) to console (pronounced kunSOLE) myself after the loss of my best friend.

So now that you know how these chameleons behave, are you confident of taming them? Let us know in the comments below.

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. as a native english speaker, i didn’t even realize how confusing our language is!
    i’m going to be learning vietnamese this year and moving there next year — i need to keep in mind the different inflections on words!

  2. As a native English speaker, I don’t even think of these nuances between 2 words. But when I dabbled in Mandarin Chinese, I learned there are 4 different meanings for words depending on inflection. Made me want to cry. 😭

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here