A homograph is a word with the same spelling as another word but with a different meaning and often with a different pronunciation and etymology
(history of the word's earliest known use). Here are some common homographs:
- "Bow" refers to a thing you might find on top of a wrapped gift, an implement for shooting arrows, the act of bending at the waist, and the front part of a ship.
- "Pitch" is a black, sticky substance used in waterproofing. It also refers to the act of throwing a baseball to a batter (yet another homograph) and to simply discarding unwanted items.
- "Junk" is both garbage and a type of oriental flat-bottomed boat. (The junk that gets pitched from the bow of a junk is called "jetsam.")
Contrast a homograph with a homophone, which is a word that has the same pronunciation as another word, but a different spelling, such as which/witch, rain/rein/reign, and rite/write/right. The terms "homograph" and "homophone" give you an easy way to remember the difference between the two. The "homo-" part that the words share simply means "same." If you remember that a graph is something you look at for information, and a phone is something you listen to, then it's easy to figure out that a homograph refers to words that look the same and homophone refers to words that sound the same.