What is a homonym? (plus examples)

Homonyms are two words that are spelled the same and/or sound the same but have two different meanings.

An example is “bat.” A bat is the hunk of wood used to hit baseballs, and it is also the name of the arguably adorable winged creature of the night. These two words are spelled the same and sound the same.

bat

An example of a word that is spelled differently but sounds the same is “son” and “sun.” “Son” means a person’s child, while “sun” means that gigantic orange thing in the sky.

Here are more examples of homonyms that are both spelled the same and sound the same:

  • address: to speak to / location
  • arm: a part of the body / a part of a company
  • band: a musical group / a ring
  • bark: the outer part of a tree / the sound a dog makes
  • bright: very smart / filled with light
  • current:  up to date / the flow of water
  • die: to stop living / a cube labeled with numbers one through six
  • duck: a type of bird / to lower oneself
  • express: something done quickly / to show your thoughts
  • fly: a type of insect / to soar through the air
  • kind: a type of something / caring
  • lie: to recline / to not tell the truth
  • pound: a unit of weight / to beat
  • right: the correct answer / left’s opposite
  • rock: a type of music / a stone
  • rose: to have gotten up / a type of flower
  • spring: one of the seasons / coiled metal
  • tire: to become fatigued / a part of a wheel
  • well: the opposite of sick / a source for water in the ground

 

Here are more examples of homonyms that sound the same but are spelled differently:

  • berry / bury: a type of fruit / to cover in something
  • brake / break: to stop / to injure a bone or to rest
  • cereal / serial: a breakfast food / to do something repeatedly
  • eye / I: a body part / the opposite of you
  • groan / grown: an unhappy sound / to have become big
  • hear / here: to experience sound / opposite of there
  • hi / high: a greeting / up above
  • him / hymn: opposite of her / a type of song
  • feat / feet: an accomplishment / a body part and unit of measurement
  • flower / flour: a type of plant / an ingredient in baking
  • flew / flu: to have traveled through the air / a type of sickness
  • knight / night: a medieval soldier / the opposite of day
  • know / no: to understand / the opposite of yes
  • meet / meat: to be introduced / animal flesh
  • one / won: the number before two / the opposite of lost
  • pail / pale: a type of container / the opposite of dark
  • pair / pear: a couple / a type of fruit
  • rap / wrap: a type of music / to cover something
  • see / sea: to look at something / a big body of water
  • weak / week: not strong / seven days in a row

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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The difference between “peel” and “peal”

Two cartoon bananas and the words

What’s the difference between peel and peal? Peel can be used as both a noun and a verb, and peal can be used as a noun. It’s easy to get these two words confused, so read this post to learn the difference.

Definitions
peel (verb): to strip off an outer layer of
Example: Lawrence peeled the skin off of his apple.

peel (noun): the skin or rind of a fruit
Example: Becky threw her potato peels in the trash.

peal (noun): 1) the loud ringing of bells; 2) a loud sound or succession of sounds
Examples: 1) Gina heard the peal of the church bells from across town.
2) Ryan let out peals of laughter at his buddy’s lunchroom antics.

Etymology
Peel comes from the Latin word pilare, which means to remove the hair from. It came into English in the thirteenth century.

Peal is short for appeal, which in Middle English meant a summons to church service. It came into the English language in the fourteenth century.

Quiz:
Fill in the blanks with either peel or peal. The answers are below.

  1. Grace slipped on a banana _______ and broke her nose.
    2. Stan grew excited when he heard the _______ of the day’s last school bell.
    3. Grandma _______ed eight pears for the pie.
    4. ____s of loud sobs escaped from Sammy when he learned a dragon ate his cat.

 

Answers:
1. peel (noun) 2. peal 3. peel (verb) 4. peal

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What is the origin of “by Jove”?

starry sky and the words "by Jove"

Have you heard of “by Jove” (or as it is sometimes incorrectly said, “by Joe”)? Today, we’re going to talk about the origins of “by Jove” so you, too, can sound all fun and old-timey.

“By Jove” is an exclamation to show surprise or express emphasis.

Example: By Jove, I think he’s got it!

“By Jove” entered our language in the late fourteenth century as a way to refer to Jupiter. At this point in time, they were not talking about the planet, but rather the Roman god, Jupiter (whom the Greeks called “Zeus”).

Jove/Jupiter was the Roman god of the sky, who had power over both gods and men. To show his wrath, he would throw thunderbolts. (You didn’t want to make him angry.)

In the fourteenth century, when the English started saying “by Jove,” it was a way to say “my god” or “good god” without blaspheming the Christian god.

Shakespeare used this expression in Love’s Labors Lost in 1588: “By Jove, I always took three threes for nine.”

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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Anxious or Eager?

woman with pink hair with concerned look on her face and the words: Are you anxious or eager? (Yes, there's a difference.)

Confusing anxious for eager is a very common word usage error. In this post, we’ll learn the difference between anxious and eager and how to remember which is which.

“I am so anxious to see you!”

How many times have you heard or said this? I’m sure it’s a lot, right? However, most of the time, anxious was probably not the right word to use (unless you are talking about your dreaded Uncle Merv).

Anxious is linked to anxiety. So the feeling of anxious is a negative thing. Anxious is that feeling of unease, nervousness, and worry that you may experience before a big test, a presentation in front of your boss, or, sometimes, when you check your bank account.

Say your best friend is about to arrive for an out-of-town visit. You are excited to see her, you are happily thinking about all of the fun things you’ll do while she’s there, and you are counting down the hours till her arrival. If that’s the case, then you are not anxious to see her; you are eager.

Instead, you would say, “I am so eager to see you!”

Being eager means you are excited and impatient and you have a great desire to do something or have something.

Being eager is a positive thing, and most of the time, being anxious is viewed negatively.

Here are examples of anxious and eager used the correct way:

  • He is eager to get his package in the mail.
  • He is anxious to get all the bills he can’t pay.

 

  • She is eager to go to the school dance and show off her dress.
  • She is anxious that her first kiss will be a disaster.

In these examples, eager has a positive connotation and anxious has a negative connotation.

How to remember the difference
Simply remember that anxious is linked to anxiety.

You can also link eager to excited, since they both start with the letter E.

anxious = anxiety
eager = excited

Can these words be interchangeable?
There has been a trend of using anxious and eager interchangeably. However, I still think there should be a distinction. Remember that anxiety is a medical condition that often requires medication and treatment. It can be a very serious and life-altering condition for those who have it. Using the word so casually (and incorrectly) downplays and waters down, in my opinion, anxiety’s true severity. People who don’t have anxiety already tend not to understand how difficult living with it can be. Misusing it in our speech adds to this confusion and lack of knowledge.

Quiz
Determine whether to use anxious or eager in each sentence.

  1. Edwin is anxious/eager that he’ll lose in the video game.
  2. Edwin is anxious/eager to eat his favorite ice cream.
  3. Edwin is anxious/eager for the first day of school, thinking of all that could go wrong.
  4. Edwin is anxious/eager to open his birthday present.

Answers:
1. anxious 2. eager 3. anxious 4. eager

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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How to Remember Breathe vs. Breath

breathe vs breath

Mixing up breathe and breath is a really common error. Luckily, there’s an easy way to remember the difference between the verb and the noun.

If you are doing the action (verb) of taking in and letting out air, then use breathe with an E at the end. 

If you are referring to the thing (noun) that you are taking in and letting out, use breath—no E at the end.

To remember the difference, think about the letter E at the end of breathe. Then remember that the word verb has an E, but the word noun doesn’t.

So breathe = verb.

 

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Here are some sample sentences:

Martin was thankful he could breathe deeply when he recovered from his cold.
Francis took a deep breath before he jumped in the pool.

 

Quiz
Test your skills with a quiz. Fill in either breathe or breath in the blanks. The answers are at the bottom.

1. Fish ________ in water.
2. Marcy hated her boss because he had bad _______.
3. Do you think there are aliens who _______ something other than oxygen?
4. The doctors put Uncle George on a respirator because he couldn’t _______ well on his own.
5. Sally couldn’t take a good _______ because the air was filled with smoke.

Answers
1. breathe 2. breath 3. breathe 4. breathe 5. breath.

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

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