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A homophone or homophone ( ancient Greek ὁμόφωνος (-ον) homóphōnos (-on) "identical, coherent") is a word that has the same pronunciation as another with different meanings. The term is defined differently, so sometimes words with different genera are included, such as B. "the head" (device) and "the head" (function). With the same spelling, they are also homographs . According to Alfred Raab, words with the same spelling do not count as homophones.

Homonymy has
different meanings,
often different origins
common root
and / or derived meaning,
e.g. B. Runner (athlete / chess piece)
same spelling,
different meaning,
often different pronunciation,
e.g. B. mōdern (rotten) and
modérn (progressive)
same pronunciation,
different meanings,
often different spelling,
e.g. B. paint and grind
A definition of the terms equivocation , homonymy and polysemy

One can differentiate between polysemous and homonymous homophones.

Like paronyms , homophones can lead to confusion. But that rarely happens. The meaning of the homophones results in the oral language from the context. In the written language, they can be distinguished by different spellings.

Homophones in different languages


Homophones are quite common in today's standard German . It should be noted, however, that words in certain regions can be homophonic that are not in the High German stage language according to Theodor Siebs . For example, the long vowels ä ( [ɛ:] ) and e ( [e:] ) are differentiated according to Siebs, but often not regionally, so that, for example, Ähre and Ehre become homophonic.

ate Carrion
poor poor
to bite
boat bot
the the that
ferry fair
heel Verses heifer
fell much
eats Deadline
garden garden
garment agile
gin Djinn
Degree ridge
Count graph
Shark Hi
Little hammer Helmet
holds hero brightens
Hammers Inhibitors
Skins today
hertz heart
Your Irishman
eats is
Cain no
cold Celt
could Accounts
kissed coast
layman Borrow
spawn corpses
larch lark
leaves load
Empty Teaching
body loaf
lid song
meal times Times
Main my
mine Mains (Gen.) Mainz
man man
sea more Mar
expression mine
measures Damn
Moor moor
Cash on delivery Surname
phase chamfer
pissed piste
wheel advice
race race
purely Rhine Rain
travels rips lined up
runs Beef
rested rod route
Lakes see
string page
are since see
creates shaft
Butcher worse
city instead of
trend separates
Clock Original
Verbs advertise
volt want
Scales dare dare
choice whale
true was
real Would
orphan wise wise
walls turn
Wake up path
Weir who
again contrary
becomes host confuses


In English there are many words that are pronounced the same but have completely different meanings. The number of possible homophones in English is increased by the fact that the worldwide spread of the English language has developed numerous varieties or mixed with other languages.

ail ale
air err hey
aisle I'll isle
are r
ate eight
b be bee
ball bawl
beach beech
bight please byte
blew blue
boar bore
break brake
buy by bye
c lake sea
cents scents sense
check Czech
colonel kernel
currant current
dual duel
ewe u you
eye I.
feat feet
flour flower
for four
gnu knew new
hear here
heel bright
get whole
hour our
its it's
knight night
knot not
know no
lead led
made maid
mail times
meat meet
O owe
oar or ore
p pee
raid rayed
raise rays raze
read red
en: right write
ring wring
rose rows
sail sale
scene seen
son sun
steal steel
sweet suite
t tea (golf) tee
taught tort
their there they're
to too two
wait weight
watt what
weal we'll wheel
wear where
whose who's
wood would
your you're
y why


In French , too, a large number of homophones developed in the course of its history. A different meaning usually corresponds to a different (historicizing) spelling.

sot (fool) saut ( jump ) sceau ( seal ) seau ( bucket )
his ( bosom ) seing (signature) sain (healthy) saint (holy)
soi (himself) soit ... soit (either ... or) sois ([you] be, be!) soie ( silk )
au (dem), aux (whom) eau (water), eaux (body of water) skin (high) aulx ( leek plants ) os (bone) (pl.)
foi (belief) foie (liver) (une) fois (once) Foix (river or town name)
sou (sol (coin unit)) sous (under) saoul, soûl (drunk) soue (pigsty)


In tonal languages, in which words are distinctive based on a tone , homophony is also defined by tone. In the Chinese languages, e.g. B., the words / characters whose pronunciation are identical for initial, final and tone are homophones. The words / signs from the same syllable but with a different tone are only counted as homophones in a few cases, e.g. B. in information processing. Phonetic evolution and vocabulary expansion are increasing the number of homophones in the Chinese languages. The probability of homophony is particularly high in standard Chinese .

The poem lion-eating poet in the stone cave by Zhao Yuanren , which consists only of the phonetic syllable "shi" and only varies in tone, is only understandable even for the Chinese based on the characters. In other, syllable-rich dialects of Chinese, the poem is then acoustically understandable again. Of the Chinese dialects, Cantonese deserves special mention, as it has preserved old readings particularly well.

Chinese Pinyin German

《施 氏 食 獅 史》

石室 詩 士 施 氏 , 嗜 獅 , 誓 食 十 獅。
氏 時時 適 市 視 視 獅。
十 時 , 適 適 十 獅 適 市。
是 時 , 適 施 氏 適 市
是 氏 視 視 視 視 視 視十 獅 , 恃 矢 勢 , 使 是 十 獅 逝世。
氏 拾 是 十 獅 屍 , 適 石室。
石室 濕 , 氏 氏 使 侍 拭 石室。
石室 石室 拭 , 氏 始 試 食 是 十 獅。
食 時 是 十 始 識, 實 十 石獅 屍。
試 釋 是 事。

"Shī Shì shí shī shǐ"

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shi shi, shi Shi Shi shi shi.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shi shi shi shi.

The story of Shi, the lion eats

stone cave poet Shi, addicted to lions, swears to eat ten lions.
He often goes to the market to see lions.
At ten o'clock ten lions are just passing the market.
At this time, Shi is also just passing the market.
He sees the ten lions, with his arrows he sends the ten lions to death.
He brings the ten lion corpses to the stone cave.
The stone cave is damp. He orders his servant to dry them off.
After the stone cave has been dried off, he tries to eat the ten lions.
While eating, he notices that these ten lions are actually ten stone lion corpses .
Try to explain this.

Japanese and Korean

Examples of homophones in Korean . Above the pronunciation in Hangeul letters, including nine homophones, pronounced sudo , which are written with the same Hangeul characters and can only be distinguished by the different Chinese Hanja characters , which are also used in Korean.

Unlike the Chinese languages, neither Japanese nor Korean is a tonal language . Since many Chinese terms in the Japanese and Korean languages ​​were adopted along with the writing (compare On reading in Japanese), the lack of tones and the relative simplicity of the syllables in both languages ​​lead to a high number of homophones.


Children are introduced to homophones in a game called Teekesselchen in German-speaking countries and Teapot in English .

See also


  • Fischer, Walter: English homophones. 3rd edition Munich: Hueber, 1970.
  • Raab, Alfred: Homophone of the German language , Nuremberg: rab-Verlag, 1971.
  • Riehme, Joachim: Spelled the same way - spelled differently: confusingly similar words and their correct spelling. 2nd edition Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut, 1990. ISBN 3-323-00172-9

Web links

Wiktionary: Homophon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ Alfred Raab, Homophone der Deutschen Sprache , Nuremberg: rab-Verlag, 1971
  2. For example sentences with these and other homophones see Fausto Cercignani , Example sentences with German homophones .
  3. ^ Mary White: The Book of a Hundred Games. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York NY 1896, p. 117. Scan of the 8th edition under the new title The Book of Games. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York NY 1898, p. 129.