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A homograph (from the Greek: ὁμός

, homós, "same" and γράφω, gráphō, "write") is one of a group of words that share the same spelling but have different meanings. When spoken, the meanings are sometimes, but not necessarily, distinguished by different pronunciations. A homograph can be either a homonym or a heteronym.


shift n. (a change)
shift n. (a period at work)
shift v. (slang for 'move it')

In (1) all three words are identical in spelling and pronunciation (ie they are also homophones), but differ in meaning and function. These are commonly described as different senses of the same word, but if a word is regarded as a unique idea separate from its orthography and pronunciation then they are two different words.

read /riːd/ (present)
read /red/ (past)

(2) is an example of two words spelt identically but pronounced differently. Here confusion is not possible in spoken language.

Homograph disambiguation is critically important in speech synthesis, natural language processing and other fields.

More examples

Main article: List of English homographs
Word Example of first meaning Example of second meaning
Dove The dove cooed at the passers-by. The diver dove into the pool with barely a splash.
Close "Will you please close that door!" The tiger was now so close that I could smell it...
Wind Doreen's arthritic fingers could not wind up the clock again. The wind howled through the woodlands.

See also

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