Homonyms and
Similar Sounding Words

Commonly Confused Words and Terms (Homonyms)
A homonym is a word of the same (or similar) sound or spelling as another one, but with a different meaning (often very different). Words of the same or similar spelling or sound can be easily confused and thus misused unintentionally, completely changing the meaning of something.

In fact, I see one or more of these terms used incorrectly on almost a daily basis.

Looking at this list below, it is not difficult to see how confusing English can sometimes be, both when speaking it and writing it.

Following is a list of what I consider to be some of the most common causes of such confusion:

affect (to influence)
effect (noun: impact, consequence; verb: to result in, to bring about)

allusion (reference)
illusion (misleading appearance)

all ready (prepared)
already (previously)

ascent (climb)
assent (agree)

bloc (group of nations, people, companies…)
block (noun: solid object; verb: to obstruct)

born (through birth)
borne (carried)

breach (noun: break, gap; verb:to break, to violate)
breech (lower part)

broach (to bring up or raise a subject for discussion)
brooch (piece of jewellery)

canvas (cloth)
canvass (solicit, conduct a poll)

capital (city housing a seat of government; very important)
capitol (government legislature building in the USA)

carat (unit of weight for precious stones)
caret (proofreader's mark)
karat (unit specifying proportion or purity of gold in alloy)

cast (noun:group of actors; verb: to throw off/out)
caste (structured social class)

censor (noun: official who censors; verb: to perform role of censor)
censure (criticize, blame, disapprove)

chord (music; geometry; engineering)
cord (string like material made of small strands)

complement (something that completes)
compliment (noun: praise; verb: to praise)

councillor (member of a council)
counsellor (adviser)

dependant (person who relies on another for financial support)
dependent (conditional, unable to do without, depending on)

discreet (tactful, prudent, trustworthy)
discrete (separate, distinct)

dyeing (coloring)
dying (nearing death)

elicit (to draw out/forth, evoke response)
illicit (illegal, unlawful)

envelop (to surround, wrap up, or cover completely)
envelope (for insertion of a letter)

faze (upset, disturb, disconcert)
phase (stage in a process)

flair (talent, knack)
flare (flame, light)

forbear (hold back, exercise patience, wait)
forebear (ancestor)

foreward (moving ahead)
foreword (introductory remarks in a book)

hoard (save up)
horde (crowd)

immanent (naturally present, inherent)
imminent (about to happen)

inequity (unfairness)
iniquity (wickedness, gross injustice)

its (belongs to it)
it's (contraction for it is)

loath (adjective: reluctant, unwilling)
loathe (verb: to regard with disgust, to detest)

loose (adjective: no longer restrained, unattached)
lose (verb: to be deprived of)

mantel (structure above fireplace)
mantle (loose cloak, etc.)

mucous (adjective: secreting or resembling mucus)
mucus (noun: slimy substance)

ordinance (law, order, decree)
ordnance (military weapons)

pedal (noun: foot operated lever; verb: to operate by foot)
peddle (verb: to sell goods)

personal (one's own, individual)
personnel (body of employees, staff)

phosphorous (adjective: containing phosphorus)
phosphorus (noun: non-metallic element)

principal (chief, senior in rank, school administrator)
principle (fundamental truth or law)

prophecy (noun: divinely inspired utterance)
prophesy (verb: foretell, predict)

sceptic (doubter; also spelled skeptic)
septic (contaminated, infected)

stationary (not moving, fixed, motionless)
stationery (writing materials)

troop (noun:soldiers, scouts; verb: to march)
troupe (actors, performers)

waive (forego, give up, pass up)
wave (noun: moving ridge of liquid; verb: to move up and down, to and fro, etc.)

The above list contains the best examples I could come up with when I researched and wrote this page. If you think of others, just add them to your own list. If you come up with a good one that I missed, please e-mail me with it via the "Contact" link at the bottom of this page.

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