Words & Stuff

The Non-Canonical List of Homomorphs

(Last modified 1/25/99)

To qualify as a homomorph, a word must have at least two meanings with entirely different etymologies, but with the same pronunciation and (for a strong homomorph) as the same part of speech.

Most of the items on this list were brought to my attention by Dominus. A few I found on my own; there are also contributions from Arthur and Kendra.

Several of the items here have one etymology listed as "origin unknown" in the online dictionary I used. I count them anyway, even though it's conceivable that the unknown origin is connected to the known one.

I've provided the different-etymology definitions for only a few of these items as yet; eventually I'll provide summary definitions for all of them.

a*
arbor
tree; lattice of vines
art?*
painting/sculpture/etc.; archaic form of "are"
baggage
bail
bar
barrow
baste
sew loosely; pour drippings over; beat [sounds like a recipe for something...]
bear*
beaver
animal; armor
bill
beak; charge
boil
bubbling state; skin inflammation
bore
hole/to drill; [n]wave; [uo]uninteresting/to weary; [v]past of 'bear'
bow
boat front; curtsy
bower?
anchor [no etym. listed]; bed
box?
fisticuffs [no etym.]; crate
bust
bosom; explode
cant
argot; slope (also: tilted; lively (dial. Engl.))
chase
pursuit; groove; frame
chop
a stamp; a cut
chord
combination of tones; line between two points on a curve
chuck
nudge under chin; cut of meat (& tool holder); wedge; endearment term
clap?
percussive noise; gonorrhea (slang)
cleave
clove
cobble
colon
compound
con
cuff?
part of sleeve; slap -- unclear whether these are etym. distinct
desert
dock
dole
handout; sorrow (archaic)
don
drill
baboon; cotton cloth; [uo]practice; furrow
dub
duck
fake?
one def. listed as origin-unknown
fallow
farrow*
fawn*
fence?
not according to my dictionary
filet?
unclear -- one from MF (threadlet), one from F (net), could be same ultimate source
flatter*
hock
3 meanings
hop
hops*
jade
keel
barge; stabilizer for ship (distantly related); (dial.) red ocher
kennel
key
ladino?
pronounced differently, but unusual enough to be interesting
last
lead
leaves*
departs; foliage
lie
speak untruth; rest horizontally
list
lore
low
something that's not high; moo; flame
mail
meld
mole
five etymologies, plus another w/different pronunciation!
Mosaic?
one is proper noun, one isn't (no, silly, not NCSA; rather, Moses!)
Pandora?
one is proper noun, one isn't
pale
to fence in; to become pallid [*? one is vt, one vi]
pedology
pet
plane
pool
water; betting
prize
something seized by force; something offered as a reward
prop
something that props up; stage property; propeller
prune*
to cut off branches; dried plum
pry
to snoop; to loosen with a lever
pulse
heartbeat; edible seeds
pump
water pump; [uo]low-heeled shoe
punch
punch holes/punch in the nose (probably related); spiked punch
punk
decayed wood; [uo]tough kid
punt
propel a boat by pole; [uo]kick a football; gamble
quail*
quiver
rail
rake
[uo]to incline; a profligate man (may be related to the tool, via "rakehell"); garden tool with tines
rape
herb; grape pomace; forced intercourse
ream*
riddle
ruff
ruffle
shambles
slew
smooch
kiss; smudge
sock?
stocking; punch (slang)
sole*
sound
spade?
distantly related via Greek
spoke
past tense of speak; insert bars into a wheel [*? for tenses?]
still
taipan
foreigner in China; Australian venomous snake -- my favorite of those found by Arthur
tire*
grow weary; wheel covering
troll
fishing lure; monster
venery
hunting; love
yard
three feet; backyard
yen
yearning; Japanese money. [Oddly, both from Chinese!]

Key

* indicates weak homomorphs (distinct etymologies but different parts of speech)

? indicates problematic situations, or items I'm not sure whether to count

*? indicates problematic weak/strong designations (tense differences, for instance, or transitive/intransitive difference)

[n] indicates noun

[uo] indicates unknown origin

[v] indicates verb


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>