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Heteronym illustration with the examples: present, windy, read, and close

Heteronym: spell it the same, say it differently

For a long time, I’ve kept my ear (and eye) out for heteronyms: words that are written the same but said differently. Homonyms are easy to spot - things like chip (food, processor), or bark (dog, tree) - but heteronyms are sneaky and you don’t notice them as easily. Fiddly things like windy, present, read, or close.

It always strikes me they must make English a pain to learn - “what do you mean read can be said as red or reed??! How’m I supposed to know that??”

A few other common ones (try to spot both pronunciations, it’s a little like the old out-cube/in-cube Necker illusion): bow, does, dove, import, lead, project, refuse, sow, tear, minute…

Also known as a homograph (homo - same, graph - writing)

Also see: aptronym, contranym

Hat tip to Richard Stevens for his nifty vintage-style heteronym list

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