What are Heteronyms?

Heteronyms are words that are spelled identically but have different meanings when pronounced differently. For example:

Lead, pronounced LEED, means to guide. However, lead, pronounced LED, means a metallic element.

Compare heteronyms to homographs, homophones, and homonyms.

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but differ in meaning, derivation, or pronunciation. Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, derivation, or spelling. Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings. There is overlap among these categories.

Heteronyms are specific types of homographs in which the different pronunciations are associated with different meanings. Many heteronyms are the result of one pronunciation being a verb and another being a noun.

Our lists of heteronyms are shown below. We are limiting ourselves to words commonly used in the English language. Some of our heteronyms have completely different meanings while others have somewhat related meanings. (We also list words that have nearly the same meanings.) We also are including heteronyms in which at least one of the words is a foreign word (as long as it is commonly used in English).

Not every meaning of every word is given.

Browse our collection of word lists which allow you to examine words more closely. Provide descriptions of words alongside dictionary definitions and a list of related words.


Affect ehFEKT- to change; AFFekt- a person's feelings or emotion

Alternate ALternit- the next choice; ALternait- switch back and forth

Are AHR- plural present tense of "to be"; AIR- 100 square meters (1/100th of a hectare) [although may also be pronounced AHR]

Ares AIRS- 100 square meter units [plural]; AIReez- Greek god of war [capitalized]

Attribute ahTRIByoot- to consider resulting from; AHtribyoot- a characteristic of someone (12)

August AUgust- month [capitalized]; auGUST- important, eminent

Axes AKsiz- more than one ax or axe; AKseez- the plural of axis

Bass BASE- a string instrument; (rhymes with mass)- a fish

Bow BAU- to lower one's head or the front of a ship; BOH- used to shoot arrows

Bowed BAU-d- to bend over; BOH-d- bent

Buffet BUFFet- to pound or bump; booFAY- place where you serve yourself

Close CLOZE- to shut; CLOS- near

Combine komBYNE- put together; KOMbyne- a threshing machine

Conduct KONduckt- behavior; kunDUCKT- to lead (see this heteronym below)

Conflict kunFLIKT- to act against; KAHNflict- a fight or disagreement

Console KAHNsole- an upright case; kunSOLE- to comfort

Content KAHNtent- meaning; kunTENT- satisfied

Contest kunTEST- to argue; KAHNtest- a match of skill

Contract CONtract- an agreement; conTRACT- to shrink or to agree on a project

Convert conVERT- to change one's belief; CONvert- one whose belief was changed

Converse KAHNvers- the opposite; kunVERS- to talk

Convict kunVIKT- to find guilty; KAHNvikt- a prisoner

Crooked KROOKt- to bend your neck; KROOK-ed- having a curve

Deliberate diLIBerit- carefully considered; diLIBerATE- to consider

Desert dihZURT- to leave ; DEZert- arid region

Digest DYEjest- collection of published material; dieJEST- absorb nutrients

Do DOO- to accomplish; DOE- a musical note

Does DUZ- performs; DOZE- more than one female deer

Dove DUV- a bird; DOEV- jumped off

Drawer DROR- the compartment you pull out from the dresser; DRAWer- one who draws

Excuse EKskyooz- to let someone off; EKskyoos- a reason or explanation

House HAUS- a building that serves as living quarters; HOWZ- to provide with living quarters

Incense INsens- burnt aromatic; inSENS- to make angry

Intern INtern- a physician in training; inTERN- confine to prescribed area

Invalid inVALLid- not valid; INvallid- an ill person

Laminate LAMinate- to construct by adding layers; LAMinit [although both pronunciations are listed]- the cover itself

Lather (rhymes with rather)- foam or suds; (rhymes with bath fur)- a worker who installs lath (lattice work)

Lead LEED- to guide; LED- a metallic element

Minute MINNit- 60 seconds; myNOOT- tiny

Moderate MODerit- keeping within reason; MODerATE- to preside over

Mow MOH- to cut grass; MAU- a pile of hay

Multiply MULLtihPLIE- multiply two numbers; MULLtihplee- in a multiple manner

Number NUMber- one, two, three …; NUMMER- more numb [many dictionaries do not list this use, which suggests that "more numb" is preferred; however, the listed use is given in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Electronic version.]

Nun NUN- women in religious order; NOON- 14th letter in Hebrew alphabet

Object ubJEKT- to complain; AHBjekt- a thing

Pasty PAstee- like glue; PASStee- a meat pie

Pate PAIT- a bald head; paTAY- a minced food; PAHT- a porcelain paste [diacritics in pâté and pâte don't count!]

Perfect PERfekt- exactly correct; perFEKT- to make correct

Periodic PEEReeODDik- occasional; PUREeyeODDik- an iodine compound

Permit perMIT- to allow some event to occur; PERmit [although both pronunciations are listed]- a document giving permission

Polish POElish- from Poland; PAHLish- shine [capitalization doesn't count!]

Present PREZent- a gift; preeSENT- to give a talk

Primer PRIHMer- an elementary book; PRYmer- the preparatory coat of paint

Produce PROdoos- vegetables; proDOOS- bring forth

Project proJEKT- to show a movie; PRAHjekt- a task

Pussy PUHSee- having pus; POOHSee; a kitten

Raven RAYven- black bird; RAVen- hungry

Rebel REBBell- a resister; rihBELL- to resist

Record RECKord- a list; reKORD- to write down

Recreation rek-ree-Ashun- pastime; REEcreeAshun- remake (also, recreate)

Refuse reFUSE- to deny; REFFyoos- garbage

Relay reeLAY- to put it down again, such as a carpet; REElay- a race by teams; rihLAY- to pass along, such as information [One of our dictionaries gives these pronunciations, but does not distinguish meanings among the latter two. The pronunciation may vary among individuals.]

Rerun reRUN- to race again or to repeat a show on television; RErun- a repeated TV show

Reside: reZIDE- to stay put; RE-SYD- [Slang] to change places (change teams) [usu. hyphenated as re-side] (

Resign reZYN- to quit; reSYN- to sign again (e.g., a contract) [usu. hyphenated as re-sign]

Resume reeZOOM- to restart; REHZoomay- a document of experience [also résumé; diacritics don't count!]

Row ROH- a line; ROUW- a fight

Sake SAHkey- alcoholic drink; SAYK- a purpose

Secrete seeKREET- to discharge; sehKRET- an armored skullcap [secrète, diacritics don't count!]

Secreted seeKREETed- having put out; SEEkrehted- placed out of sight

Separate SEPerATE- to divide into groups; SEPret- not joined together

Sewer SOwer- one who sews; SOOwer- place for human waste

Slough SLUFF- the outer layer of skin of a snake; [rhymes with OW!]- a hole of deep mud or mire; SLOO- a marshy pond

Sow SOUW- a pig; SO- to plant seed

Subject SUBjekt- the theme; subJEKT- to force upon someone

Tear TARE- to rip; TEER- fluid in eye

Wind WHINEd- to coil up; WINd- the blowing air

Wound WOOND- to injure; WOWND- coiled up

Heteronymic Sentences :

Mary & Harry Baldwin of San Diego are collectors of heteronyms. When they find a word, they compose a sentence that uses the different meanings. For example:

When the brush fire was close, the authorities had to close the road.

I subject my friends to pain when I discuss the subject of my operation.

Words List Index

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