HOMOGRAPHS

A list by John Higgins of English words which have two pronunciations but one spelling
with contributions from the indefatigable Clay Stabler and others

Contents

Alphabetical list of all homographs
A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

Tesco poster Pitt-Rivers museum
Notice in a supermarket. /pəʊlɪʃ/ or /pɒlɪʃ/? Camera feed at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford. /lɪv/ or /laɪv/?
Possibly the first person to publish a list of minimal pairs, homophones
and homographs, certainly the earliest I have been able to find.
He has about 140 items in his homograph list, including several that are no longer distinct such as champaign, chap, char and rarity.

 

Definitions

Homographs are those words which have one spelling but two pronunciations and two distinct meanings or usages. A classic case would be a word like wound, which as a noun or present tense verb means injury or injure and with a different pronunciation is the past tense of the verb wind, itself a homograph. The term is contrasted with homophones, words with two spellings and two meanings but only one pronunciation such as fair/fare, and with homonyms, words with one spelling, one pronunciation, but two unrelated meanings, such as bear or just or left. The fact that the meanings are unrelated is what distinguishes homonyms from polysemes, words with varied meanings or usages, such as course or table or paper, where all the meanings can be traced back to the same root. English has an enormous number of polysemes, but only a relatively small set of true homonyms.

Not everybody uses this set of definitions, though they would be accepted by the majority of trained linguistic scholars. In wider usage (reflected in many dictionaries) the term homograph includes what I have here called homonyms and polysemes, i.e. words of different meaning but the same spelling and pronunciation, such as right and fly. For those people the term for what I am calling homographs is heteronyms, a term not much used by professional linguists. (Heterophone would be a much more appropriate description since what is different is the sound, not the name.)

Homographs are a minor problem for anyone learning English as a foreign language, but a much greater problem for anyone trying to design a foolproof text-to-speech algorithm for a computer. If one pronunciation is far commoner than the other (as with the word second, for instance) the programmer will probably ignore the exceptional case. Where both pronunciations occur frequently, as with object or read, the programmer must try to find contextual markers on which to base a rule.

The source of this list was the Roger Mitton machine-readable version of the 1974 Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, incorporating Mitton's 1991 additions. The dictionary contained 537 words which had more than one pronunciation listed. Some of these were simply words with varying pronunciations and no shift of meaning, such as breeches, dowsing, garage and piano or varying stress patterns such as bow-wow, bye-bye, and fricassee, and these were discarded. There were also four strong-form/weak-form pairs, a, an, to and 'cos (it is not clear why these were the only such pairs to emerge), three cases of abbreviations matching ordinary words, am (before noon), in (inch), and no (number), and one case of a loan word overlapping with an established English word, real (probably referring to the old Spanish coin rather than the football team).

The remaining 488 words plus about 140 more which were either not in the dictionary or not given two pronunciations in the dictionary have been classified into relevant groupings and are listed below. The spellings and phonetic transcriptions are mainly as they appear in the dictionary, though I have used Gimsonian IPA symbols rather than the Alvey transcription that Mitton had to use so that he could store his dictionary as a text file. There is also a complete alphabetical checklist of homographs which you can consult if looking for a particular word.

Double stress

A number of double-stress words showed up. These are words whose pronunciation varies with their position in the phrase, front-stressed before a noun and end-stressed when final in the phrase, though without substantial change of meaning. (Compare "an overnight bag" with "Are you staying overnight?")

inland 'ɪnlənd ,ɪn'lænd
outside 'aʊtsaɪd ,aʊt'saɪd
overall 'əʊvərɔl ,əʊvə'rɔl
overhead 'əʊvəhed ,əʊvə'hed
overnight 'əʊvənaɪt ,əʊvə'naɪt
overweight 'əʊvəweɪt ,əʊvə'weɪt

There are a number of other English words which behave in the same way, such as afternoon, bamboo, downhill, downstairs, inside, overseas, princess, routine, sardine, underground, upstairs, together with many compound adjectives (easy-going, home-made), all nationality adjectives ending in -ese, numbers from 13 to 99 (apart from multiples of 10), and many place names such as Bombay, Hong Kong, New York, and Torquay. In these other cases the dictionary did not record both stress patterns. Probably only the word overall (with its secondary meaning of an item of clothing) should be counted as a homograph, since in the other cases the change of pronunciation signals only a syntactic feature rather than a shift of meaning.

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Stress homographs

The next distinct group, which was by far the largest, was the set of nouns (or adjectives) with front-stress against verbs with end-stress with 295 words altogether. One suspects that in a good many cases the distinction is unnecessary for intelligibility; the set of -port words (export, import, transport) for instance are often heard with front stress even when being used as verbs, and I have heard on air the word increase stressed both ways as noun and both ways as verb. Similarly combat is always front-stressed as a noun, but may have either stress pattern when used as a verb. All these words are more likely to have stress on the second syllable when an inflection adds a third syllable, thus trans'porting, in'creasing or com'bating. In thirty-five cases (listed in the table below) there is a large difference in meaning and use between the two spoken forms while in other cases the difference is more syntactic than lexical.

In most cases any adjective senses ally themselves with the noun and exhibit front stress, but in one case, content, the adjective sense is end-stressed and relates more closely to the verb than to the noun. The adjective compact seems to occur both front-stressed and end-stressed with no change of meaning, although the noun is always front-stressed and the verb always end-stressed. Similarly, the noun complex is always front-stressed, though the adjective seems to vary freely between front stress and end stress. Perhaps the most memorable example of its occurrence with end stress is in the line from the Tom Lehrer song about Oedipus Rex, "You must have heard of his complex complex." (The force of the metre here tends to give both words end-stress.) All the other adjectives in the full list, absent, abstract, compound, converse, frequent, perfect, present, quadruple and second, were front-stressed.

Several problems occur with the prefix re-, for instance in the word recall where usage is inconsistent and is probably changing, and with refresh which is coming into the language as a front-stressed noun meaning a second cup of coffee in a restaurant. There are four other cases of a large shift of meaning between the front-stressed noun and end-stressed verb, namely record, recount, refuse and relay, and a further seventeen cases are in the long list where there is no significant difference in meaning. Other cases of re- verbs not involving a change of stress are listed in a separate section below.

There are four cases needing further comment.

The meanings of the thirty-five special cases are as follows:

  Noun Adjective Verb
abstract summary not concrete to steal
affect emotion (psychol.)   to change
collect prayer of the day   to gather
compact container for face-powder occupying a small space to compress
complex set of psychological symptoms complicated  
compound (1) substance combining chemical elements
(2) enclosed group of buildings
not linear in progression to make more complex
concert musical performance   to combine
conduct behaviour   to direct an orchestra or choir
to allow electrons to pass along a wire
console control desk   to comfort
content what is contained (to make) happy
contract formal agreement   to become smaller
converse opposite to talk to another person
defile path between cliffs   to make dirty
desert dry place   to run away from
deserts (1) dry places (front-stressed)
(2) what one deserves (end-stressed)
  runs away from
entrance way in   to give delight
essay piece of writing   to attempt
exploit brave deed   to take advantage
frequent   often occurring to visit regularly
incense aromatic smoke   to enrage
intern US trainee doctor   to imprison
object thing, purpose   to be against
present gift, time now in this place to hand over
process method   (1) to modify (front-stressed)
(2) to move in procession (end-stressed)
proceeds money earned by selling something   moves forwards
produce what is grown or made on a farm   to make
project plan   to stick out
recall request to return faulty goods to a factory   to remember
record (1) music on disc or a written log of events
(2) best ever performance or result
  to write down
recount second counting of votes in a close election
(often spelled re-count)
  to tell (a story, experience, etc)
refresh second (free) cup of tea or coffee   to make something seem new
refuse rubbish   not to agree
relay race in which a baton is passed between team members   to pass information/lay a carpet again
second part of a minute number two in sequence (1) to support a proposal at a formal meeting (front-stressed)
(2) to send away on temporary duty (end-stressed)
subject topic   to force a person to accept

This is the full list of 295 words:

absent 'æbsənt əb'sent
abstract 'æbstrækt əb'strækt
abstracts 'æbstrækts əb'strækts
accent 'æksənt æk'sent
accents 'æksənts æk'sents
addict 'ædɪkt ə'dɪkt
addicts 'ædɪkts ə'dɪkts
advert 'ædvɜt əd'vɜt
adverts 'ædvɜts əd'vɜts
affect 'æfekt ə'fekt
affects 'æfekts ə'fekts
affix 'æfɪks ə'fɪks
affixesæfɪksɪzə'fɪksɪz
allies 'ælaɪz ə'laɪz
alloy 'æloɪ ə'loɪ
alloys 'æloɪz ə'loɪz
ally 'ælaɪ ə'laɪ
annex 'æneks ə'neks
annexes 'æneksɪz ə'neksɪz
attribute 'ætrɪbjut ə'trɪbjut
attributes 'ætrɪbjuts ə'trɪbjuts
collect 'kɒlekt kə'lekt
collects 'kɒlekts kə'lekts
combat 'kɒmbæt kəm'bæt
combats 'kɒmbæts kəm'bæts
combine 'kɒmbaɪn kəm'baɪn
combines 'kɒmbaɪnz kəm'baɪnz
commune 'kɒmjun kə'mjun
communes 'kɒmjunz kə'mjunz
compact 'kɒmpækt kəm'pækt
compacts 'kɒmpækts kəm'pækts
complex 'kɒmpleks kəm'pleks
compound 'kɒmpaʊnd kəm'paʊnd
compounds 'kɒmpaʊndz kəm'paʊndz
compress 'kɒmpres kəm'pres
compresses 'kɒmpresɪz kəm'presɪz
concert 'kɒnsət kən'sɜt
concerts 'kɒnsəts kən'sɜts
conduct 'kɒndʌkt kən'dʌkt
confines 'kɒnfaɪnz kən'faɪnz
conflict 'kɒnflɪkt kən'flɪkt
conflicts 'kɒnflɪkts kən'flɪkts
conscript 'kɒnskrɪpt kən'skrɪpt
conscripts 'kɒnskrɪpts kən'skrɪpts
console 'kɒnsəʊl kən'səʊl
consoles 'kɒnsəʊlz kən'səʊlz
consort 'kɒnsɔt kən'sɔt
consorts 'kɒnsɔts kən'sɔts
construct 'kɒnstrʌkt kən'strʌkt
constructs 'kɒnstrʌkts kən'strʌkts
content 'kɒntent kən'tent
contents 'kɒntents kən'tents
contest 'kɒntest kən'test
contests 'kɒntests kən'tests
contract 'kɒntrækt kən'trækt
contracts 'kɒntrækts kən'trækts
contrast 'kɒntrɑst kən'trɑst
contrasts 'kɒntrɑsts kən'trɑsts
converse 'kɒnvɜs kən'vɜs
convert 'kɒnvɜt kən'vɜt
converts 'kɒnvɜts kən'vɜts
convict 'kɒnvɪkt kən'vɪkt
convicts 'kɒnvɪkts kən'vɪkts
counterbalance 'kaʊntəbæləns ,kaʊntə'bæləns
counterbalances 'kaʊntəbælənsɪz ,kaʊntə'bælənsɪz
decoy 'dikoɪ dɪ'koɪ
decoys 'dikoɪz dɪ'koɪz
decrease 'dikris dɪ'kris
decreases 'dikrisɪz dɪ'krisɪz
defect 'difekt dɪ'fekt
defects 'difekts dɪ'fekts
defile 'difaɪl dɪ'faɪl
defiles 'difaɪlz dɪ'faɪlz
descant 'deskænt dɪ'skænt
descants 'deskænts dɪ'skænts
desert 'dezət dɪ'zɜt
deserts 'dezəts dɪ'zɜts
dictate 'dɪkteɪt dɪk'teɪt
dictates 'dɪkteɪts dɪk'teɪts
digest 'daɪʤest dɪ'ʤest
digests 'daɪʤests dɪ'ʤests
discard 'dɪskɑd dɪ'skɑd
discards 'dɪskɑdz dɪ'skɑdz
discharge 'dɪsʧɑʤ dɪ'sʧɑʤ
discharges 'dɪsʧɑʤɪz dɪ'sʧɑʤɪz
discount 'dɪskaʊnt dɪs'kaʊnt
discounts 'dɪskaʊnts dɪs'kaʊnts
discourse 'dɪskɔs dɪ'skɔs
discourses 'dɪskɔsɪz dɪ'skɔsɪz
entrance 'entrəns ɪn'trɑns
entrances 'entrənsɪz ɪn'trɑnsɪz
envelope 'ɒnvələʊp ɪn'veləp
envelopes 'ɒnvələʊps ɪn'veləps
escort 'eskɔt ɪ'skɔt
escorts 'eskɔts ɪ'skɔts
essay 'eseɪ e'seɪ
essays 'eseɪz e'seɪz
excess 'ekses ɪk'ses
excise 'eksaɪz ɪk'saɪz
exploit 'eksploɪt ɪk'sploɪt
exploits 'eksploɪts ɪk'sploɪts
export 'ekspɔt ɪk'spɔt
exports 'ekspɔts ɪk'spɔts
extract 'ekstrækt ɪk'strækt
extracts 'ekstrækts ɪk'strækts
ferment 'fɜment fə'ment
ferments 'fɜments fə'ments
filtrate 'fɪltreɪt fɪl'treɪt
filtrates 'fɪltreɪts fɪl'treɪts
fragment 'frægmənt fræg'ment
fragments 'frægmənts fræg'ments
frequent 'frikwənt frɪ'kwent
impact 'ɪmpækt ɪm'pækt
impacts 'ɪmpækts ɪm'pækts
implant 'ɪmplɑnt ɪm'plɑnt
implants 'ɪmplɑnts ɪm'plɑnts
import 'ɪmpɔt ɪm'pɔt
imports 'ɪmpɔts ɪm'pɔts
impress 'ɪmpres ɪm'pres
impresses 'ɪmpresɪz ɪm'presɪz
imprint 'ɪmprɪnt ɪm'prɪnt
imprints 'ɪmprɪnts ɪm'prɪnts
incense 'ɪnsens ɪn'sens
incline 'ɪnklaɪn ɪn'klaɪn
inclines 'ɪnklaɪnz ɪn'klaɪnz/td>
increase 'ɪŋkris ɪn'kris
increases 'ɪŋkrisɪz ɪn'krisɪz
indent 'ɪndent ɪn'dent
indents 'ɪndents ɪn'dents
inlay 'ɪnleɪ ,ɪn'leɪ
inlays 'ɪnleɪz ,ɪn'leɪz
insert 'ɪnsɜt ɪn'sɜt
inserts 'ɪnsɜts ɪn'sɜts
inset 'ɪnset ,ɪn'set
insets 'ɪnsets ,ɪn'sets
instinct 'ɪnstɪŋkt ,ɪn'stɪŋkt
insult 'ɪnsʌlt ɪn'sʌlt
insults 'ɪnsʌlts ɪn'sʌlts
interchange 'ɪntəʧeɪnʤ ,ɪntə'ʧeɪnʤ
interchanges 'ɪntəʧeɪnʤɪz ,ɪntə'ʧeɪnʤɪz
interdict 'ɪntədɪkt ,ɪntə'dɪkt
interdicts 'ɪntədɪkts ,ɪntə'dɪkts
intern 'ɪntɜn ɪn'tɜn
interns 'ɪntɜnz ɪn'tɜnz
introvert 'ɪntrəvɜt ,ɪntrə'vɜt
introverts 'ɪntrəvɜts ,ɪntrə'vɜts
inverse 'ɪnvɜs ɪn'vɜs
invite 'ɪnvaɪt ɪn'vaɪt
invites 'ɪnvaɪts ɪn'vaɪts
mandate 'mændeɪt ,mæn'deɪt
misconduct ,mɪs'kɒndʌkt ,mɪskən'dʌkt
misprint 'mɪsprɪnt ,mɪs'prɪnt
misprints 'mɪsprɪnts ,mɪs'prɪnts
object 'ɒbʤɪkt əb'ʤekt
objects 'ɒbʤɪkts əb'ʤekts
overbid 'əʊvəbɪd ,əʊvə'bɪd
overbids 'əʊvəbɪdz ,əʊvə'bɪdz
overcharge 'əʊvəʧɑʤ ,əʊvə'ʧɑʤ
overcharges 'əʊvəʧɑʤɪz ,əʊvə'ʧɑʤɪz
overflow 'əʊvəfləʊ ,əʊvə'fləʊ
overflows 'əʊvəfləʊz ,əʊvə'fləʊz
overhang 'əʊvəhæŋ ,əʊvə'hæŋ
overhangs 'əʊvəhæŋz ,əʊvə'hæŋz
overhaul 'əʊvəhɔl ,əʊvə'hɔl
overhauls 'əʊvəhɔlz ,əʊvə'hɔlz
overlap 'əʊvəlæp əʊvə'læp
overlaps 'əʊvəlæps ,əʊvə'læps
overlay 'əʊvəleɪ ,əʊvə'leɪ
overlays 'əʊvəleɪz ,əʊvə'leɪz
overprint 'əʊvəprɪnt ,əʊvə'prɪnt/td>
overprints 'əʊvəprɪnts ,əʊvə'prɪnts
overstrain 'əʊvəstreɪn ,əʊvə'streɪn
overthrow 'əʊvəƟrəʊ ,əʊvə'Ɵrəʊ
overthrows 'əʊvəƟrəʊz ,əʊvə'Ɵrəʊz
overwork 'əʊvəwɜk ,əʊvə'wɜk
perfect 'pɜfɪkt pə'fekt
perfume 'pɜfjum pə'fjum
perfumes 'pɜfjumz pə'fjumz
permit 'pɜmɪt pə'mɪt
permits 'pɜmɪts pə'mɪts
pervert 'pɜvɜt pə'vɜt
perverts 'pɜvɜts pə'vɜts
prefix 'prifɪks ,pri'fɪks
prefixes 'prifɪksɪz ,pri'fɪksɪz
presage 'presɪʤ prɪ'seɪʤ
presages 'presɪʤɪz prɪ'seɪʤɪz
present 'preznt prɪ'zent
presents 'preznts prɪ'zents
proceeds 'prəʊsidz prə'sidz
process 'prəʊses prə'ses
processed 'prəʊsest prə'sest
processes 'prəʊsesɪz prə'sesɪz
processing 'prəʊsesɪŋ prə'sesɪŋ
produce 'prɒdjus prə'djus
progress 'prəʊgres prə'gres
progresses 'prəʊgresɪz prə'gresɪz
project 'prɒʤekt prə'ʤekt
projects 'prɒʤekts prə'ʤekts
prolapse 'prəʊlæps prəʊ'læps
prolapses 'prəʊlæpsɪz prəʊ'læpsɪz
prospect 'prɒspekt prə'spekt
prospects 'prɒspekts prə'spekts
prostrate 'prɒstreɪt prɒ'streɪt
protest 'prəʊtest prə'test
protests 'prəʊtests prə'tests
purport 'pɜpət pə'pɔt
quadruple 'kwɒdrupl kwɒ'drupl
quadruples 'kwɒdruplz kwɒ'druplz
rampage 'ræmpeɪʤ ,ræm'peɪʤ
rampages 'ræmpeɪʤɪz ,ræm'peɪʤɪz
rebel 'rebəl rɪ'bel
rebels 'rebəlz rɪ'belz
rebound 'ribaʊnd ,ri'baʊnd
rebounds 'ribaʊndz rɪ'baʊndz
recall 'rikɔl rɪ'kɔl
recalls 'rikɔlz rɪ'kɔlz
recap 'rikæp ,ri'kæp
recapped 'rikæpt ,ri'kæpt
recapping 'rikæpɪŋ ,ri'kæpɪŋ
recaps 'rikæps ,ri'kæps
record 'rekɔd rɪ'kɔd
records 'rekɔdz rɪ'kɔdz
recount 'rikaʊnt ,ri'kaʊnt
recounts 'rikaʊnts ,ri'kaʊnts
refill 'rifɪl ,ri'fɪl
refills 'rifɪlz ,ri'fɪlz
refit 'rifɪt ,ri'fɪt
refits 'rifɪts ,ri'fɪts
refresh 'rifreʃ rɪ'freʃ
refund 'rifʌnd rɪ'fʌnd
refunds 'rifʌndz rɪ'fʌndz
refuse 'refjus rɪ'fjuz
rehash 'rihæʃ ,ri'hæʃ
rehashes 'rihæʃɪz ,ri'hæʃɪz
reject 'riʤekt rɪ'ʤekt
rejects 'riʤekts rɪ'ʤekts
relay 'rileɪ ,ri'leɪ
relaying ,ri'leɪɪŋ rɪ'leɪɪŋ
relays 'rileɪz ,ri'leɪz
remake 'rimeɪk ,ri'meɪk
remakes 'rimeɪks ,ri'meɪks
remount 'rimaʊnt ,ri'maʊnt
remounts 'rimaʊnts ,ri'maʊnts
replay 'ripleɪ ,ri'pleɪ
replays 'ripleɪz ,ri'pleɪz
reprint 'riprɪnt ,ri'prɪnt
reprints 'riprɪnts ,ri'prɪnts
rerun 'rirʌn ,ri'rʌn
reruns 'rirʌnz ,ri'rʌnz
retake 'riteɪk ,ri'teɪk
retakes 'riteɪks ,ri'teɪks
rethink 'riƟɪŋk ,ri'Ɵɪŋk
rethinks 'riƟɪŋks ,ri'Ɵɪŋks
retread 'ritred ,ri'tred
retreads 'ritredz ,ri'tredz
rewrite 'riraɪt ,ri'raɪt
rewrites 'riraɪts ,ri'raɪts
second 'sekənd sɪ'kɒnd
seconded 'sekəndɪd sɪ'kɒndɪd
seconding 'sekəndɪŋ sɪ'kɒndɪŋ
seconds 'sekəndz sɪ'kɒndz
segment 'segmənt seg'ment
segments 'segmənts seg'ments
subcontract ,sʌb'kɒntrækt ,sʌbkən'trækt
subcontracts ,sʌb'kɒntrækts ,sʌbkən'trækts
subject 'sʌbʤɪkt səb'ʤekt
subjects 'sʌbʤɪkts səb'ʤekts
surmise 'sɜmaɪz sə'maɪz
surmises 'sɜmaɪzɪz sə'maɪzɪz
survey 'sɜveɪ sə'veɪ
surveys 'sɜveɪz sə'veɪz
suspect 'sʌspekt sə'spekt
suspects 'sʌspekts sə'spekts
torment 'tɔment tɔ'ment
torments 'tɔments tɔ'ments
transfer 'trænsfɜR træns'fɜR
transfers 'trænsfɜz træns'fɜz
transplant 'trænsplɑnt træns'plɑnt
transplants 'trænsplɑnts træns'plɑnts
transport 'trænspɔt træn'spɔt
transports 'trænspɔts træn'spɔts
undercharge 'ʌndəʧɑʤ ,ʌndə'ʧɑʤ
undercharges 'ʌndəʧɑʤɪz ,ʌndə'ʧɑʤɪz
undercut 'ʌndəkʌt ,ʌndə'kʌt
underlay 'ʌndəleɪ ,ʌndə'leɪ
underline 'ʌndəlaɪn ,ʌndə'laɪn
underlines 'ʌndəlaɪnz ,ʌndə'laɪnz
undertaking 'ʌndəteɪkɪŋ ,ʌndə'teɪkɪŋ
undertakings 'ʌndəteɪkɪŋz ,ʌndə'teɪkɪŋz
upgrade 'ʌpgreɪd ,ʌp'greɪd
upgrades 'ʌpgreɪdz ,ʌp'greɪdz
uplift 'ʌplɪft ,ʌp'lɪft
upset 'ʌpset ,ʌp'set
upsets 'ʌpsets ,ʌp'sets

There were two interesting words which reversed the trend of this set, words where the front-stressed form was the (3rd person singular) verb and a form with stress later in the word was the (plural) noun:

analyses 'ænəlaɪzɪz ə'næləsiz
diagnoses 'daɪəgnəʊzɪz ,daɪəg'nəʊsiz

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-ATE words

Another large group was the set of words ending with -ate where the noun/adjective sense uses a schwa while the verb sense uses a full /eɪ/ diphthong. There were 45 of these (or 74 counting the inflectional variants). All of them retain the same stress pattern whether noun/adjective or verb except for alternate and consummate which, like analyses and diagnoses and unlike the other stress homographs, puts the stress at the front for the verb and later for the noun/adjective. I have omitted discriminate, which is very common as a verb but extremely rare as an adjective, although the negative of the adjective, indiscriminate, is common. One that is a relatively recent development (first attested 1909) is the verb sense of curate, meaning to be in charge of an art exhibition, a back-formation from curator. The noun sense, assistant to a minister of religion, is much older.

advocate 'ædvəkət 'ædvəkeɪt
advocates 'ædvəkəts 'ædvəkeɪts
agglomerate ə'glɒmərət ə'glɒməreɪt
aggregate 'ægrɪgət 'ægrɪgeɪt
aggregates 'ægrɪgəts 'ægrɪgeɪts
alternate ɔl'tɜnət 'ɔltəneɪt
animate 'ænɪmət 'ænɪmeɪt
appropriate ə'prəʊprɪət ə'prəʊprɪeɪt
approximate ə'prɒksɪmət ə'prɒksɪmeɪt
articulate ɑ'tɪkjʊlət ɑ'tɪkjʊleɪt
aspirate 'æspɪrət 'æspɪreɪt
aspirates 'æspɪrəts 'æspɪreɪts
associate ə'səʊʃɪət ə'səʊʃɪeɪt
associates ə'səʊʃɪəts ə'səʊʃɪeɪts
certificate sə'tɪfɪkət sə'tɪfɪkeɪt
certificates sə'tɪfɪkəts sə'tɪfɪkeɪts
confederate kən'fedərət kən'fedəreɪt
confederates kən'fedərəts kən'fedəreɪts
conglomerate kən'glɒmərət kən'glɒməreɪt
conglomerates kən'glɒmərəts kən'glɒməreɪts
consummate 'kɒnsəmeɪt kən'sʌmət
coordinate ,kəʊ'ɔdənət ,kəʊ'ɔdɪneɪt
coordinates ,kəʊ'ɔdənəts ,kəʊ'ɔdɪneɪts
curate 'kjʊərət kjʊə'reɪt
curates 'kjʊərəts kjʊə'reɪts
degenerate dɪ'ʤenərət dɪ'ʤenəreɪt
degenerates dɪ'ʤenərəts dɪ'ʤenəreɪts
delegate 'delɪgət 'delɪgeɪt
delegates 'delɪgəts 'delɪgeɪts
deliberate dɪ'lɪbərət dɪ'lɪbəreɪt
desolate 'desələt 'desəleɪt
duplicate 'djuplɪkət 'djuplɪkeɪt
duplicates 'djuplɪkəts 'djuplɪkeɪts
ejaculate ɪ'ʤækjulət ɪ'ʤækjuleɪt
ejaculates ɪ'ʤækjuləts ɪ'ʤækjuleɪts
elaborate ɪ'læbərət ɪ'læbəreɪt
estimate 'estɪmət 'estɪmeɪt
estimates 'estɪməts 'estɪmeɪts
expatriate eks'pætrɪət eks'pætrɪeɪt
expatriates eks'pætrɪəts eks'pætrɪeɪts
graduate 'græʤʊət 'græʤʊeɪt
graduates 'græʤʊəts 'græʤʊeɪts
incarnate ɪn'kɑnət ɪn'kɑneɪt
incorporate ɪn'kɔpərət ɪn'kɔpəreɪt
inebriate ɪ'nibrɪət ɪ'nibrɪeɪt
inebriates ɪ'nibrɪəts ɪ'nibrɪeɪts
initiate ɪ'nɪʃɪət ɪ'nɪʃɪeɪt
initiates ɪ'nɪʃɪəts ɪ'nɪʃɪeɪts
intimate 'ɪntɪmət 'ɪntɪmeɪt
intimates 'ɪntɪməts 'ɪntɪmeɪts
legitimate lɪ'ʤɪtɪmət lɪ'ʤɪtɪmeɪt
moderate 'mɒdərət 'mɒdəreɪt
moderates 'mɒdərəts 'mɒdəreɪts
pontificate pɒn'tɪfɪkət pɒn'tɪfɪkeɪt
pontificates pɒn'tɪfɪkəts pɒn'tɪfɪkeɪts
precipitate prɪ'sɪpɪtət prɪ'sɪpɪteɪt
predicate 'predɪkət 'predɪkeɪt
predicates 'predɪkəts 'predɪkeɪts
quadruplicate kwɒ'druplɪkət kwɒ'druplɪkeɪt
quadruplicates kwɒ'druplɪkəts kwɒ'druplɪkeɪts
regenerate rɪ'ʤenərət rɪ'ʤenəreɪt
reincarnate ,riɪn'kɑnət ,riɪn'kɑneɪt
reticulate rɪ'tɪkjʊlət rɪ'tɪkjʊleɪt
separate 'seprət 'sepəreɪt
separates 'seprəts 'sepəreɪts
subordinate sə'bɔdɪnət sə'bɔdɪneɪt
subordinates sə'bɔdɪnəts sə'bɔdɪneɪts
syndicate 'sɪndɪkət 'sɪndɪkeɪt
syndicates 'sɪndɪkəts 'sɪndɪkeɪts
triplicate 'trɪplɪkət 'trɪplɪkeɪt
triplicates 'trɪplɪkəts 'trɪplɪkeɪts
underestimate ,ʌndə'restɪmət ,ʌndə'restɪmeɪt
underestimates ,ʌndə'restɪməts ,ʌndə'restɪmeɪts

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-MENT words

A similar but smaller group was the set of words ending with -ment where the noun sense uses a schwa while the verb sense uses a full vowel. The dictionary listed five of these (ten including the inflectional variants), though in present day usage this set is no longer consistently differentiated; most speakers nowadays will use a schwa for the verbs to implement or to supplement, and probably for the whole set.

compliment 'kɒmplɪmənt 'kɒmplɪment
compliments 'kɒmplɪmənts 'kɒmplɪments
document 'dɒkjʊmənt 'dɒkjʊment
documents 'dɒkjʊmənts 'dɒkjʊments
implement 'implɪmənt 'ɪmplɪment
implements 'ɪmplɪmənts 'ɪmplɪments
ornament 'ɔnəmənt 'ɔnəment
ornaments 'ɔnəmənts 'ɔnəments
supplement 'sʌplɪmənt 'sʌplɪment
supplements 'sʌplɪmənts 'sʌplɪments

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Voicing

A fifth set was that in which the noun/verb or adjective/verb distinction was made by voicing a final consonant. There were eighteen of these. One of them, the word close, exists as a verb with /z/, as an adjective with /s/, and as two different nouns, with /z/ meaning 'conclusion' and with /s/ meaning 'street with no exit'. In the form closer it may be a comparative adjective with /s/ or an agent noun with /z/. It is also worth noting the way used occurs with /s/ in the colligation 'used to' to make a past tense while the pronunciation with /z/ has the meaning 'employed'. In the nineteenth century a distinction was made between 'a mouse' with final /s/ and 'to mouse' (catch mice) with final /z/, but that is not heard nowadays.

abuse ə'bjus ə'bjuz
abuses ə'bjusɪz ə'bjuzɪz
baths bɑɵs bɑðz
close kləʊs kləʊz
closes 'kləʊsɪz 'kləʊzɪz
closer 'kləʊsə 'kləʊzə
diffuse dɪ'fjus dɪ'fjuz
excuse ɪk'skjus ɪk'skjuz
excuses ɪk'skjusɪz ɪk'skjuzɪz
house haʊs haʊz
misuse ,mɪs'jus ,mɪs'juz
misuses ,mɪs'jusɪz ,mɪs'juzɪz
mouth maʊɵ maʊð
mouths maʊɵs maʊðz
unused ʌn'just ʌn'juzd
use jus juz
used just juzd
uses 'jusɪz 'juzɪz
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Words beginning re-

Apart from the words beginning with re- which occur as front-stressed nouns or end-stressed verbs such as rebel, record, refill and reprint, listed under stress homographs above, there are a number of others which are not distinguished by main stress but by the presence of secondary stress on the prefix and a consequent change of pronunciation from /rɪ/ to /ri/. The first pronunciation tends to be associated with the meaning 'back' and the second with 'again'. The prefix re- with the second pronunciation often has the potential to enter homographs as one returns to earlier meanings of the base form. Thus we talk of reform /rɪ'fɔm/ in the church or the legal system, but a sculptor might reform /,ri'fɔm/ a clay model; you can make a remark /rɪ'mɑk/ in speech, while a teacher may remark /,ri'mɑk/ a contested exam paper. You may resent /rɪ'zent/ unfair criticism, while a garbled message may be resent/,ri'sent/. This distinction is sometimes signalled by including a hyphen in the spelling for the second meanings, re-form, re-mark and re-sent. Notice that the main stress does not move, and that where the base begins with <s> the pronuciation shifts between /z/ and /s/ as in resent, reserve, resign and resort. More of these forms may be added to the language, though those listed below are the only ones I know of so far that are well attested. There are two other special cases, the verb represent and the noun recreation in which the stress is on the prefix and the distinction is between the pronunciations /re/ and /ri/.

recover rɪ'kʌvə ,ri'kʌvə
recovers rɪ'kʌvəz ,ri'kʌvəz
recovered rɪ'kʌvəd ,ri'kʌvəd
recovering rɪ'kʌvəɪŋ ,ri'kʌvəɪŋ
(get better after illness/put new covers on soft furniture)

recreation 'rekrɪ,eɪʃn 'rikrɪ,eɪʃn
(amusement/copying an effect or mood)

reform rɪ'fɔm ,ri'fɔm
reforms rɪ'fɔmz ,ri'fɔmz
reformed rɪ'fɔmd ,ri'fɔmd
reforming rɪ'fɔmɪŋ ,ri'fɔmɪŋ
(change a corrupt system/re-make a clay statue)

rejoinrɪ'ʤoɪn ,ri'ʤoɪn
rejoined rɪ'ʤoɪnd ,ri'ʤoɪnd
rejoining rɪ'ʤoɪnɪŋ ,ri'ʤoɪnɪŋ
rejoins rɪ'ʤoɪnz ,ri'ʤoɪnz
(answer/join again)

remark rɪ'mɑk ,ri'mɑk
remarks rɪ'mɑks ,ri'mɑks
remarked rɪ'mɑkt ,ri'mɑkt
remarking rɪ'mɑkɪŋ ,ri'mɑkɪŋ
(comment/mark a contested exam paper again)

represent 'reprɪzent 'riprɪzent
represents 'reprɪzents 'riprɪzents
represented 'reprɪzentɪd 'riprɪzentɪd
representing 'reprɪzentɪŋ 'riprɪzentɪŋ
(stand for/present again)

reproof rɪ'pruf ,ri'pruf
reproofs rɪ'prufs ,ri'prufs
(criticism/proofread again)

resent rɪ'zent ,ri'sent
(feel bitter/transmitted again)

reserve rɪ'z3v ,ri's3v
reserves rɪ'z3vz ,ri's3vz
reserved rɪ'z3vd ,ri's3vd
reserving rɪ'z3vɪŋ ,ri's3vɪŋ
(make a booking/serve again)

resign rɪ'zaɪn ,ri'sɪn
resigns rɪ'zaɪnz ,ri'sɪnz
resigned rɪ'zaɪnd ,ri'sɪnd
resigning rɪ'zaɪnɪŋ ,ri'sɪnɪŋ
(step down from a job/sign again)

resolve rɪ'zɒlv ,ri'sɒlv
resolves rɪ'zɒlvz ,ri'sɒlvz
resolved rɪ'zɒlvd ,ri'sɒlvd
resolving rɪ'zɒlvɪŋ ,ri'sɒlvɪŋ
(determine/solve again)

resort rɪ'zɔt ,ri'sɔt
resorts rɪ'zɔts ,ri'sɔts
resorted rɪ'zɔtɪd ,ri'sɔtɪd
resorting rɪ'zɔtɪŋ ,ri'sɔtɪŋ
(make use of OR holiday town/sort again)

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Two more small groups could also be identified and separated. The first was the nine -ed adjectives with matching verb past tenses:

aged 'eɪʤɪd eɪʤd
blessed 'blesɪd blest
crabbed 'kræbɪd kræbd
crooked 'krʊkɪd krʊkt
cursed 'kɜsɪd kɜst
dogged 'dɒgɪd dɒgd
jagged 'ʤægɪd ʤægd
learned 'lɜnɪd lɜnd
ragged 'rægɪd rægd

Not in the dictionary with both pronunciations but behaving similarly is the word beloved, which has three syllables as a noun or attributive adjective, but only two as a passive participle. ("I loved and was beloved again": Byron.) The adjective supposed has a rare archaic three-syllable pronunciation which is preserved in the derived adverb, supposedly. Winged was listed only as a one-syllable verb, but is also heard often as a two-syllable adjective in the phrase "Winged Victory". This dictionary listed wicked only as a two-syllable adjective, but the full OED also lists a one-syllable pronunciation, meaning "having a wick". Similarly this dictionary has rugged only as a two-syllable adjective, but the full OED has rug as a verb, which you might use in "We don't need another rug; the room is well rugged already."

The other group was the set of French loan words whose Anglicised plural is not represented in the spelling. Only five were recorded in the lists, but there are also many proper names, especially those associated with products, books or works of art, that behave in the same way, such as Beaujolais, Chablis, Charollais, Rabelais, Beaumarchais or Millais. There are also phrases such as faux pas and pince-nez which can be given a /z/ plural. A special case would be Grand Prix. Several such races might be given a /z/ plural, but a careful editor would write Grands Prix for the plural, making this not a homograph.

bourgeois 'bʊəʒwɑ 'bʊəʒwɑz
chamois 'ʃæmwɑ 'ʃæmwɑz
corps kɔz
patois 'pætwɑ 'pætwɑz
rendezvous 'rɒndɪvu 'rɒndɪvuz

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"True" homographs

That left the following set of 119 homographs (179 if all the inflectional variants are counted) arising from a variety of causes. This section of the list includes those words like moped and wound which are most typical of what we have in mind when we think of homographs. These include a number which were not in the original dictionary list.

I have included several which contrast an ordinary word with a place or personal name: the words nice, angers, lens and tours all contrasting with French cities, liege with a Belgian city, trier with a German city, hue with a Vietnamese city, reading with an English or American town, abridge with an English village, scone with a Scottish village and palace, wear with an English river, tangier with a Moroccan port, mobile with a city in Alabama, natal with a South African province, rainier with a prince of Monaco, munch with a Norwegian artist, pears with an English singer, dieter with a German first-name, ravel with a French composer, mime with a character in Wagner's Ring cycle, and job with an Old-Testament prophet. Like august/August, and polish/Polish they are distinguished by capitalisation and would only be homographs in sentence-initial position or in all-upper-case writing. The word romance as a verb meaning to pay court to would most likely have the schwa in the first syllable, while romance meaning a piece of fiction could have either schwa or a full diphthong, and Romance as a description of languages derived from Latin would almost certainly have the full diphthong. The surname Brazil is usually front-stressed (as in Angela Brazil the author) while the name of the country is end-stressed. The girl's name Nancy is another homograph in contrast with a French city. Sue as an abbreviation for Susan is never palatalised, while the verb sue often is in British English.

The word dove is a homograph for speakers of Amercian English but not for the British for whom the past tense of dive is dived. The verb sundry (dry in the sun) is not well attested, though the participle sundried is common on food labels, sometimes with a hyphen, sun-dried. The adjective pasty (pale) is always so spelled, but the noun (a meat pie) has an alternative spelling of pastie, common in Ireland. I am also unsure how well the verb predate is attested in the meaning "devour prey", though it is common in its other meaning of "come before". In six cases of recent loan words, expose, charge, pate, rose, resume and attaches, the homograph is disambiguated by retaining the French accents in the English spelling.

The contrast between the two-syllable and three-syllable pronunciations of evening may not be consistently made by all RP speakers, though all would recognise it, I believe.

There are several cases involving Latin or Greek terms or names: ate versus the Goddess Ate, dives versus Dives (rich man), agape, manes and pace. Two cases, axes and bases, contrast a Latin plural with an English plural.

Many of these words are particularly popular with crossword setters since they allow for the creation of misleading cryptic clues. (See below for examples.)

abridge/Abridge ə'brɪdʒ 'eɪbrɪdʒ
(shorten/village in Essex)

agape 'ægəpɪ ə'geɪp
(Christian love/open-mouthed)

angers/Angers 'æŋgəz 'ɒŋʒeɪ
(makes angry, city in France)

arithmetic ə'rɪƟmətɪk ˌærɪƟ'metɪk
(noun, adjective as in 'arithmetic mean')

ate/Ate eɪt or et 'ɑteɪ
(consumed, Goddess of mischief)

attachés/attaches ə'taeʃeɪz ə'taetʃɪz
(diplomats/fastens together; not a homograph if one retains the accent)

august/August ɔ'gʌst 'ɔgəst
(solemn/eighth month)

axes 'æksɪz 'æksiz
(plural of axe/plural of axis)

aye
(Yes/ever)

baas bɑs bɑz
(South African boss/makes a sheep-like noise)

bases 'beɪsɪz 'beɪsiz
(plural of base/plural of basis)

bass bæs beɪs
(kind of fish/low voice)

batman/Batman 'bætmən 'bætˌmæn
(army officer's servant/comic book hero)

bow bəʊ baʊ
bowed bəʊd baʊd
bowing 'bəʊɪŋ 'baʊɪŋ
bows bəʊz baʊz
(play violin/bend from the waist)

bower 'bəʊə 'baʊə
bowers 'bəʊəz 'baʊəz
(violinist/tree-shaded place)

bowman 'bəʊmən 'baʊmən
bowmen 'bəʊmən 'baʊmən
(archer/rower at bow of boat)

Brazil 'bræzl brə'zɪl
(English surname/South American country)

buffet 'bʊfeɪ 'bʌfɪt
buffets 'bʊfeɪz 'bʌfɪts
(help-yourself table/blow)

bustier 'bʌstɪeɪ 'bʌstɪə
(a garment/with a larger bosom)

cave keɪv keɪ'vi
(rock dwelling/schoolboys' warning of an approaching master)

charge/chargé ʧɑʤ 'ʃɑʒeɪ
charges/chargés 'ʧɑʤɪz 'ʃɑʒeɪz
(attack/short for chargé d'affaires, temporary ambassador)

cleanly 'klenlɪ 'klinlɪ
(adjective/adverb)

denier 'denɪə dɪ'naɪə
(silk measure, one who denies)

dieter/Dieter 'daɪətə 'ditə
(one who eats little to lose weight, German first name)

dives/Dives daɪvz 'diveɪz
(plunges into water, rich man in St Luke's gospel story)

do dəʊ du
(musical note/auxiliary verb)

does dəʊz dʌz
(female deer/auxiliary verb)

dove dəʊv dʌv
(past of dive (US)/bird of peace)

drawer drɔ drɔə
drawers drɔz drɔəz
(sliding container in a desk/one who draws a chequ, as in "refer to drawer")

entrance 'entrəns ɪn'trɑns
entrances 'entrənsɪz ɪn'trɑnsɪz
(way in/give delight)

evening 'ivnɪŋ 'ivənɪŋ
(period after sunset/making smooth or equal, as in "evening the score")

expose/exposé ɪks'pəʊz eks'pəʊzeɪ
exposes/exposés ɪks'pəʊzɪz eks'pəʊzeɪz
(remove a cover/scandalous revelation; not homographs if one retains the accent)

finish 'fɪnɪʃ 'faɪnɪʃ
(complete/somewhat fine)

flower 'flaʊə 'fləʊə
flowers 'flaʊəz 'fləʊəz
(plant/something that flows)

forbear 'fɔbeə fɔ'beə
forbears 'fɔbeəz fɔ'beəz
(ancestor/not do)

forearm 'fɔrɑm ˌfɔ'rɑm
forearms 'fɔrɑmz ˌfɔ'rɑmz
(part of the arm/prepare for danger)

furrier 'fɜrɪə 'fʌrɪə
(more furry/fur dealer)

gallant 'gælənt gə'lænt
(adjective/person)

gill ʤɪl gɪl
gills ʤɪlz gɪlz
(liquid measure/part of fish)

glower 'glaʊə 'gləʊə
glowers 'glaʊəz 'gləʊəz
(frown/something that glows)

grave grɑv greɪv
graves grɑvz greɪvz
(French accent/burial place)

housewife 'haʊswaɪf 'hʌzɪf
housewives 'haʊswaɪvz 'hʌzɪfs
(married woman who looks after the household/sewing kit issued to soldiers)

hue/Hue hju hwe
(colour/city in Vietnam)

imagines ɪ'mæʤɪnz ɪ'meɪgɪniz
(forms a mental picture/plural of 'imago', adult stage of an insect)

inter 'ɪntə ɪn't3
(between/bury a body)

invalid 'ɪnvəlɪd ɪn'vælɪd
(sick person/out of date)

job/Job ʤɒb ʤəʊb
(work/character in the Old Testament)

layer 'leə 'leɪə
layers 'leəz 'leɪəz
(stratum/egg-producer)

lead led lid
leading 'ledɪŋ 'lidɪŋ
leads ledz lidz
(metal/go first)

lens/Lens lenz lɒŋs
(shaped glass for focussing light/French city)

lied laɪd lit
(told lies/German song)

liege/Liège liʤ li'eʒ
(loyal subject of a king/city in Belgium)

live lɪv laɪv
(verb/adjective)
lives lɪvz laɪvz
(verb/noun)

lower 'ləʊə 'laʊə
lowered 'ləʊəd 'laʊəd
lowering 'ləʊərɪŋ 'laʊərɪŋ
lowers 'ləʊəz 'laʊəz
(make more low/frown)

manes 'mɑneɪz meɪnz
(departed spirits/fur round animal's neck)

mime/Mime maɪm 'mimə
(wordless acting/character in Wagner's Ring)

minute 'mɪnɪt maɪ'njut
(unit of time/very small)

mobile/Mobile 'məʊbaɪl məʊ'bil
(easy to move/city in Alabama)

moped 'məʊped məʊpt
(motor-cycle/was gloomy)

mow məʊ maʊ
mowed məʊd maʊd
mowing 'məʊɪŋ 'maʊɪŋ
mows məʊz maʊz
(cut grass/grimace)

multiply 'mʌltɪplaɪ 'mʌltɪplɪ
(verb/adverb)

munch/Munch mʌnʧ mʊnʃ
(chew/Norwegian artist)

Nancy 'nænsɪ 'nɒŋsɪ
(English girl's name/French city)

natal/Natal 'neɪtl nə'tɑl
(concerning birth/province of South Africa)

nice/Nice naɪs nis
(pleasant/city in France)

number 'nʌmbə 'nʌmə
numbers 'nʌmbəz 'nʌməz
(numerical value/thing which makes (more) numb)

pace peɪs 'pɑʧɪ
(step or speed/with respect (I disagree) from Latin 'in peace')

palled pæld pɔld
palling 'pælɪŋ 'pɔlɪŋ
(made friends/became boring)

pasty 'pæstɪ 'peɪstɪ
(pie/pale)

pâté/pate 'pæteɪ peɪt
(meat spread/bald head; not a homograph if one retains the accents)

Pears/pears pɪəz 'peəz
(English singer/fruit)

peer pɪə 'piə
peers pɪəz 'piəz
(look closely/one who pees)

pension 'pɒnsɪɒn 'penʃn
pensions 'pɒnsɪɒnz 'penʃnz
(boarding-house/salary in retirement)

periodic pɪərɪ'ɒdɪk 'pə'raɪədɪk
(occurring at intervals/in 'periodic acid' containing more oxygen than iodic acid)

polish/Polish 'pɒlɪʃ 'pəʊlɪʃ
(make shiny/from Poland)

poll pɒl pəʊl
polls pɒlz pəʊlz
(parrots/opinion surveys)

prayer 'preə 'preɪə
prayers 'preəz 'preɪəz
(what is said to God/person who prays)

predate pri'deɪt 'preˌdɪt
predates pri'deɪts 'preˌdɪts
predated pri'deɪtɪd 'preˌdɪtɪd
(come before/consume prey)

preposition 'prepəzɪʃn 'pripəzɪʃn
prepositions 'prepəzɪʃnz 'pripəzɪʃnz
(part of speech/put in place in advance)

pussy 'pʊsɪ 'pʌsɪ
(beloved cat/oozing pus)

put pʊt pʌt
puts pʊts pʌts
putting 'pʊtɪŋ 'pʌtɪŋ
(place/hit a golf ball on the green, often spelled PUTT)

rainier/Rainier 'reɪniə 'reɪnieɪ
(wetter weather/Prince of Monaco)

ravel/Ravel 'rævəl ræˈvel
(entangle/French composer)

raven 'rævən 'reɪvən
ravens 'rævənz 'reɪvənz
(consume greedily/bird)

read rid red
lip-read 'lɪp-rid 'lɪp-red
misread ˌmɪs'rid ˌmɪs'red
proofread 'prufrid 'prufred
reread ri'rid ri'red
(present tense/past tense)

reading/Reading 'ridɪŋ 'redɪŋ
(looking at words/town in Berkshire or Pennsylvania)

real/Real rɪəl 'reɑl
(not imaginary/old Spanish silver coin or Madrid football team)

resume/résumé rɪ'zjum 'rezjʊ,meɪ
(start again/CV; not a homograph if one retains the accent)

romance/Romance rə'mæns rəʊ'mæns
(pay court to or piece of fiction/language derived from Latin)

rose/rosé rəʊz 'rəʊzeɪ
(kind of flower/pink wine; not a homograph if one retains the accent)

routed 'raʊtɪd 'rutɪd
routing 'raʊtɪŋ 'rutɪŋ
(comprehensively beating in battle/sending on a particular way, sometimes spelled ROUTEING)

row rəʊ raʊ
rowed rəʊd raʊd
rowing 'rəʊɪŋ 'raʊɪŋ
rows rəʊz raʊz
(propel a boat/argue)

sake seɪk 'sɑkɪ
(behalf/Japanese drink)

scone/Scone skɒn skun
(small cake/village and palace near Perth in Scotland)

sewer 'səʊə 'sjuə
sewers 'səʊəz 'sjuəz
(person who sews/drain)

shower 'ʃaʊə 'ʃəʊə
showers 'ʃaʊəz 'ʃəʊəz
(short rainfall/one who shows)

sin 'sɪn 'saɪn
(wickedness/trigonometric funtion)

skier 'skiə 'skaɪə
skiers 'skiəz 'skaɪəz
(one who skis/ball hit high into the air)

slaver 'slævə 'sleɪvə
slavers 'slævəz 'sleɪvəz
(foam at the mouth/ship carrying slaves)

slough slʌf slaʊ (also in USA) slu
sloughs slʌfs slaʊz
(discard skin/marsh)

sow səʊ saʊ
sows səʊz saʊz
(spread seed/female pig)

sue/Sue sju su
(take to court/short for Susan)

sundry 'sʌndrɪ 'sʌnˌdraɪ
sundries 'sʌndrɪz 'sʌnˌdraɪz
(various/dry in the sun)

supply 'sʌplɪ sə'plaɪ
(in a supple way/provide)

swinging 'swɪŋɪŋ 'swɪnʤɪŋ
(from swing/from swinge, often spelled SWINGEING)

tangier/Tangier 'tæŋɪə tæn'ʤɪə
(more strong-tasting/port in Morocco)

tarry 'tærɪ 'tɑrɪ
(wait/covered with tar)

tear tɪə teə
tears tɪəz teəz
(liquid from the eyes/rip in cloth)

tier 'taɪə tɪə
tiers 'taɪəz tɪəz
(one who ties/row of seats)

tinged tɪŋd tɪnʤd
tinging 'tɪŋɪŋ 'tɪnʤɪŋ
(made a bell sound/added colour, more often spelled TINGEING)

tours/Tours tʊəz tʊə
(travels around/city in France)

tower 'taʊə 'təʊə
towers 'taʊəz 'təʊəz
(tall building/one who tows)

trier/Trier traɪə triə
(one who tries/German city)

unionised/unionized 'junɪənaɪzd ʌn'aɪənaɪzd
(with an organised work force/not ionised as in "unionised ammonia")

valence 'væləns 'veɪləns
valences 'vælənsɪz 'veɪlənsɪz
(hanging border--also spelled 'valance'/chemical bond--also spelled 'valency')

wear/Wear weə wɪə
(put on clothes/river in the north of England)

wind wɪnd waɪnd
winding 'wɪndɪŋ 'waɪndɪŋ
winds wɪndz waɪndz
(moving air/twist a knob)

worsted 'wɜstɪd 'wʊstɪd
(defeated/cloth)

wound waʊnd wund
(past of WIND/hurt in battle)

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Quite: a tonemic homograph

One other word worth drawing attention to is quite. This has two distinct meanings, completely as in "You're quite right" and to some extent as in "He's quite clever". Although both senses are pronounced the same at the segmental level, i.e. the same sequence of vowels and consonants, they are consistently differentiated by intonation, the first sense occurring in phrases with a falling tone and the second in phrases with a fall-rise. This makes it apparently the only example of a toneme distinction in English, i.e. a case where a distinction in the meaning of a word is indicated by a tone difference. I would argue that this meets the definition of a homograph, namely two meanings, two pronunciations, but only one spelling.

Abbreviations

There is one homograph I know of (there may be more) which arises from abbreviating two different words. Reg is pronounced /reʤ/ when it is short for Reginald or registration, as in "a T-reg car". It is pronounced /reg/ when it is short for regulation as in "Queen's Regs" (the British Army's rule book). Luckily the second form is almost always plural and the first almost always singular, so there is little chance of confusion. There are at least four cases where a homograph arises between a full word and an abbreviation. One is the homograph of path, which is pronounced /pɑƟ/ by RP speakers in its ordinary meaning as a place to walk, and /pæƟ/ when it is an abbreviation for pathology, as in "we are waiting for the path reports"; another is the abbreviation Staffs /stæfs/ for Staffordshire against the word staffs /stɑfs/, which would be homographs in upper-case writing; a third is the word coop meaning enclosure as opposed to Coop, sometimes written Co-op or Coöp, the abbreviation for the Coöperative Stores, and a fourth is the word coax pronounced /kəʊks/ meaning 'persuade' versus the abbreviation for coaxial cable coax pronounced /kəʊ'æks/. A possible fifth example is brat, pronounced /bræt/ to mean an ill-behaved child, and /brɑt/ as an abbreviation for Bratwurst in the USA. (I am grateful to Peter Reitan for sending me recordings of TV commercials which attest this pronunciation.)

Place names

Another special case is place names. In England there are three towns called Gillingham. The one in Kent is pronounced /'ʤɪlɪŋəm/ while the ones in Dorset and Norfolk are pronounced /'gɪlɪŋəm/. Unfortunately only people who live locally to one of these towns (as I do) would be likely to know this and maintain the distinction consistently. There are four communities called Plaistow, pronounced /'pleɪstəʊ/ in Derby, /'plɑstəʊ/ in Kent or Essex, and /'plæstəʊ/ in Sussex. Alford is pronounced /'ɑfəd if you are referring to the Scottish one or /'ɔlfəd if you mean the English one. Lagos in Nigeria is pronounced /'leɪgɒs/ while Lagos in Portugal is usually / 'lɑgɒs/. A similar case is Berkeley in California, pronounced /'bɜklɪ/ (by RP speakers) or /'brklɪ/, contrasted with Berkeley in the west of England, pronounced /'bɑklɪ/. There is also the case of the Kentucky Derby, pronounced /'dɜrbɪ/, and the British horse race, the Derby at Epsom, pronounced /'dɑbɪ/. I suspect that one could find more cases of pairs of places in different countries with the same spelling and different pronunciations.

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Example of cryptic crossword clues which draw on homographs, all taken from The Times:

Number of elks, perhaps, surrounding a wild animal's lair. (8)
Answer: DEADENER (something which numbs, DEER—elks perhaps— round A DEN—wild animal's lair).
(26 April 2006).

Stagger, describing Birmingham area. (8)
Answer: ASTONISH (Aston-ish, Aston being a part of Birmingham.)
(8 June 2006).

One very reliable tugboat (5, 2, 8)
Answer: TOWER OF STRENGTH
(19 June 2006).

Difference in sequence (3)
Answer: ROW
(21 June 2006).

Energy to get closer (3)
Answer: ZIP (something which closes, as well as energy)
(2 July 2005).

Nice fellow councillor blocking attempt to obtain novel (10, 5)
Answer: FRENCHMAN'S CREEK (title of a novel by Daphne du Maurier, a Nice fellow is a FRENCHMAN, CR abbreviation for Councillor in the word SEEK,attempt).
(27 July 2006).

Polish brigade involve one in runners on board. (10)
Answer: CHAIRWOMEN (Women who run boards, CHARWOMEN are the brigade of polishers, surrounding 1).
(25 January 2007).

Less sensitive issue of magazine. (10)
Answer: NUMBER
(22 October 2008).

Object to having ice-cream not guacamole for starters. (5)
Answer: THING (Object, first letters of the next five words.)
(31 July 2009)

Champ who put one screaming on the canvas? (5)
Answer: MUNCH (Chew, Norwegian artist who painted The Scream.)
(13 March 2010)

Shot or shut (5-2)
Answer: CLOSE-UP
(22 January 2011)


References and acknowledgements:

Higgins, J (1984). "It or ate; a note on the pronunciation of words ending in -ate.", ELT Journal 38, 1, p. 50-51.

My thanks to Clay Stabler for suggesting affect, arithmetic, batman, bowman, construct, coop, curate, hue, legitimate, mime, pace, preposition, and rainier, to Eduardo Parra for agape, Peter Reitan for bustier and brat, to Andrew Leventis for supposed, and to Daniel Asimov and Charles Jeffery for the extremely specialised homographs of periodic and unionised.


Key to phonetic transcription:

Vowels Keyword Transcribed   Consonants Keyword Transcribed
i key ki p pea pi
ɪpit pɪtb beebi
epet pett toetəʊ
æpat pætd doe dəʊ
ɑ hard hɑd k cap kæp
ɒ pot pɒt g get get
ɔ raw f fat fæt
ʊ put pʊt v vet vet
u coo ku Ɵ thin Ɵɪn
ʌ hut hʌt ð then ðen
3 cur k3 s sack sæk
ə about/mother əbaʊt/mʌðə z zoo zu
bay beɪ ʃ ship ʃɪp
buy baɪ ʒ measure meʒə
ɔɪ boy bɔɪ h hide haɪd
əʊ go gəʊ m man mæn
cow kaʊ n no nəʊ
ɪə peer pɪə ŋ sing sɪŋ
pair peə l lie laɪ
ʊə poor pʊə r red red

j year jɪə

w wet wet

ʧ chin ʧɪn

ʤ judge ʤʌʤ

 


Alphabetical list of 647 English homographs

 
abridge/Abridge
absent
abstract
abstracts             
abuse                   
abuses 
accent   
accents  
addict                 
addicts                
advert                  
adverts                
advocate                      
advocates                    
affect
affects
affix                     
affixes                 
afternoon              
agape
agglomerate                 
aggregate                     
aggregates                   
allies                    
alloy                      
alloys                    
ally                       
alternate  
am                    
analyses 
angers/Angers
animate                        
annex                     
annexes                 
appropriate                
approximate 
arithmetic               
articulate                  
aspirate                      
aspirates                    
associate                    
associates  	
ate/Ate
attaches                
attribute              
attributes             
august/August 
axes 
aye  

baas 
bamboo 
bases 
bass 
batman/Batman
baths 
beloved 
blessed    
bourgeois
bow 
bowed 
bower 
bowers 
bowing 
bowman
bowmen
bows 
brat
brats
buffet 
buffets  

cave
certificate                 
certificates   
chamois
charge/chargé
charges/chargés            
cleanly 
close   
closer                 
closes 
coax 
collect                  
collects  
combat
combats              
combine                              
combines                            
commune                               
communes                             
compact                              
compacts                            
compliment                 
compliments               
compound                            
compounds                          
compress                             
compresses                         
concert                               
concerts                             
conduct                              
confederate                
confederates              
confines                            
conflict                            
conflicts                          
conglomerate              
conglomerates            
conscript                          
conscripts                        
console                              
consoles                            
consort                               
consorts   
construct
constructs                          
consummate                    
content                              
contents                            
contest                              
contests                            
contract                            
contracts                          
contrast                            
contrasts                          
converse                              
convert                               
converts                             
convict                              
convicts 
coop                           
coordinate                 
coordinates               
corps  
counterbalance                 
counterbalances              
crabbed                  
crooked  
curate
curates                 
cursed  

decoy                            
decoys                                
decrease                              
decreases                           
defect                                
defects                              
defile                                
defiles                              
degenerate                 
degenerates               
delegate                      
delegates                    
deliberate                  
denier
descant                              
descants                            
desert                                 
deserts                               
desolate                      
diagnoses
dictate                               
dictates   
dieter/Dieter                          
diffuse
digest                                
digests                              
discard                                
discards                              
discharge                            
discharges                         
discount                             
discounts                           
discourse                              
discourses   
dives/Dives                        
document                
documents              
does
dogged  
dove (US)                  
downhill
downstairs
drawer
drawers
duplicate                   
duplicates                 
	 
ejaculate
ejaculates
elaborate                    
entrance                              
entrances    
envelope
envelopes                       
escort                                  
escorts                                
essay                                    
essays                                  
estimate                      
estimates     
evening               
excess                                  
excise                                 
excuse                
excuses             
expatriate                 
expatriates               
exploit                              
exploits                            
export                                 
exports   
expose
exposes                            
extract                              
extracts                            

ferment                                
ferments                              
filtrate                             
filtrates                           
finish
flower
flowers
forbear
forbears
forearm
forearms
fragment                             
fragments                           
frequent                             
furrier

gallant
gill
gills
glower
glowers
graduate                     
graduates                   
grave
graves

house 
housewife  
hue/Hue

impact                                 
impacts                               
implant                
implants               
implement                
implements              
import                                  
imports                                
impress                                
impresses                            
imprint                               
imprints                             
inincarnate                         
incense                                
incline                               
inclines                             
incorporate                     
increase                               
increases                            
indent                                 
indents                               
inebriate                  
inebriates                
initiate                    
initiates                  
inland
inlay                                  
inlays                                
insert                                  
inserts                                
inset                                  
insets                                
inside
instinct                            
insult                                 
insults
inter                               
interchange                      
interchanges                   
interdict                           
interdicts                         
intern                                   
interns                                 
intimate                    
intimates                  
introvert                            
introverts                          
invalid
inverse                                  
invite                                  
invites                                

jagged                
job/Job

layer
layers
lead
leading
leads    
learned 	
legitimate	 
lens/Lens
lied   
liege/Liege
lip-read
live
lives
lower                 
lowered                 
lowering               
lowers                   

mandate                 
manes	
mime/Mime
minute
misconduct                         
misprint                             
misprints                           
misread
misuse                  
misuses  
mobile/Mobile
moderate                    
moderates                  
moped
mouth                      
mouths  
mow                        
mowed                     
mowing                  
mows   
multiply  	
munch/Munch	

Nancy
natal/Natal 
nice/Nice
no                   
number

object                                 
objects                               
ornament                  
ornaments                
outside
overall
overbid                               
overbids                             
overcharge                          
overcharges                       
overflow                             
overflows                           
overhang                              
overhangs                            
overhaul                              
overhauls                            
overhead
overlap                               
overlaps                             
overlay                               
overlays                             
overnight
overprint                           
overprints                         
overseas
overstrain                         
overthrow                            
overthrows                          
overweight
overwork                              
	
pace
palled
palling
pasty
pate
path
patois 	
pears/Pears
peer
peers
pension
pensions
perfect                                 
perfume                                 
perfumes                               
permit                                   
permits                                 
pervert                                  
perverts                                
polish/Polish
poll
polls
pontificate              
pontificates              
prayer
prayers
precipitate                
predate
predates
predated
predicate                    
predicates                  
prefix                                
prefixes 
preposition  
prepositions                         
presage                               
presages                            
present                                
presents                              
princess
proceeds                               
process                                 
processed                              
processes                             
processing                            
produce                                
progress                               
progresses                           
project                               
projects                             
prolapse                              
prolapses                           
prospect                              
prospects                            
prostrate                            
protest                                
protests                              
purport                                  
pussy
put
puts
putting

quadruple                             
quadruples                           
quadruplicate            
quadruplicates      
quite    
 
ragged   	 
rainier/Rainier
rampage                               
rampages 
ravel/Ravel	 
raven
ravens
read                            
reading/Reading
real
rebel                                    
rebels                                  
rebound                               
rebounds    
recall
recalls                          
recap                                   
recapped                               
recapping                             
recaps                                 
record                                   
records                                 
re-count                             
re-counts  
recover
recovered
recovering
recovers    
recreation                     
refill                                  
refills                                
refit                                   
refits     
reform
reforms 
refresh                           
refund                                  
refunds                                
refuse  
reg                                
regenerate                 
rehash                                  
rehashes                              
reincarnate                
reject                                 
rejects                               
rejoin                                 
rejoined                              
rejoining                            
rejoins                               
relay                                   
relaying                               
relays                                 
relays                                  
remake                                 
remakes                               
remark
remarked
remarking
remarks
remount                               
remounts                             
rendezvous  
replay                                 
replays   
represent
represented
representing                            
represents
reprint                               
reprints                             
reproof
reproofs
reread	  
rerun
reruns
resent	  
reserve
reserved
reserves
reserving
resign
resigned
resigning
resigns	 	
resolve
resolves
resolved
resolving
resort
resorted
resorting
resorts
resume
retake                                 
retakes                               
rethink                                
rethinks                              
reticulate                 
retread                                
retreads                              
rewrite                                
rewrites 
romance/Romance                             
routed
routine
routing
row                        
rowed                     
rowing                  
rows      
rugged           

sake
sardine	  
scone/Scone
second                                  
seconded                              
seconding                             
seconds                                
segment                                
segments                              
separate                        
separates                      
sewer 
sewers 
shower 
showers  
sin
skier 
skiers 
slaver
slavers
slough 
sloughs 
sow 
sows 
staffs/Staffs 
subcontract                      
subcontracts                     
subject                               
subjects                             
subordinate                 
subordinates 
sue/Sue 
sundry
sundries            
supplement                 
supplements               
supply	  
supposed
surmise                                 
surmises                              
survey                                   
surveys                                
suspect                                
suspects                              
swinging
syndicate                    
syndicates 

tarry 
tear 
tears 
tier 
tiers 
tinged 
tinging 
torment                                 
torments   
tours/Tours                            
tower 
towers 
transfer                              
transfers                             
transplant                          
transplants                        
transport                             
transports                           
trier/Trier
triplicate                  
triplicates               
	
undercharge                         
undercharges                      
undercut                              
underestimate           
underestimates         
underground 
underlay                              
underline                            
underlines                          
undertaking                        
undertakings                      
unused 
upgrade                               
upgrades                             
uplift                                 
upset                                   
upsets                            
upstairs
use                      
used                    
uses 

valence 
valences  

wear/Wear
wicked 
wind 
winding 
winds 		  
winged
worsted 
wound

This page published by John Higgins and last updated 8 September, 2016.

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