Heteronyms

Heteronyms and homographs are similar: both are words that have the same spelling, but have different meanings. However, homographs may not always have different pronunciations.

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Heteronyms, or heterophones, always have different pronunciations. All heteronyms are homographs, but not all homographs are heteronyms.

Recognizing homophones is essential to good reading and writing skills. Students begin learning in first grade to identify and use context clues to determine the correct meaning of words that are spelled alike, but have different meanings, and later use a dictionary or rely on memory to use the correct words. With early learners, using images to illustrate how the word meanings differ is effective for memorization.

Some examples of heteronyms/homographs used in sentences:

  • I drove down the windy road on a windy day.
  • Close the windows, as the storm is getting close.
  • I am content with the content I’ve written for my blog.
  • Please elaborate on your plans for the elaborate gala.
  • My handsome escort will escort me to the dance.
  • I’d like to present you with a birthday present.
  • She will read the book that her older sister read last year.
  • Separate the laundry into separate piles for light and dark clothing.

Learn about more Frequently Confused Words: homonyms, homophones and capitonyms.

View Common Core State Standards Related to Heteronyms/HomographsClose

Common Core State Standards Related to Heteronyms/Homographs

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1.g
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking: Correctly use frequently confused words (e.g., to, too, two; there, their).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.4a
Use context (e.g., definitions, examples, cause/effect relationships and comparisons in text, or restatements in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

CCSS.ELA­-Literacy.L.5.4.a
Use context (e.g., cause/effect relationships and comparisons in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

CCSS.ELA­-Literacy.L.K.4.a
Identify new meanings for familiar words and apply them accurately (e.g., knowing duck is a bird and learning the verb to duck).

View Words at a GlanceClose

Elementary School Heteronyms:

  • List 1: bass, live, present, read, tear, bass, present, read, tear, live
  • List 2: bow, lead, produce, record, wind, lead, produce, record, wind, bow
  • List 3: close, Mobile, progress, refill, use, close, mobile, progress, refill, use
  • List 4: decrease, excuse, graduate, increase, relay, decrease, excuse, graduate, increase, relay
  • List 5: desert, house, minute, remake, separate, desert, minute, remake, separate, house
  • List 6: dove, project, reprint, rewind, wound, dove, project, reprint, rewind, wound

Middle School Heteronyms:

  • List 1: address, compact, conduct, defense, sow, object, address, compact, conduct, defense, sow, object
  • List 2: compound, content, insult, refund, overlook, perfect, compound, content, insult, refund, overlook, perfect
  • List 3: associate, contract, duplicate, import, moderate, associate, contract, duplicate, import, moderate
  • List 4: abuse, estimate, incline, refuse, overhead, transplant, abuse, estimate, incline, refuse, overhead, transplant
  • List 5: combat, complex, conflict, escort, insert, transfer, combat, complex, conflict, escort, insert, transfer
  • List 6: compress, polish, coordinate, imprint, intercept, transport, compress, Polish, coordinate, imprint, intercept, transport

High School Heteronyms:

  • List 1: abstract, convict, elaborate, predicate, torment, abstract, convict, elaborate, predicate, torment
  • List 2: construct, digest, expose, recount, construct, digest, expose, resent, recount, resent
  • List 3: permit, resume, subject, segment, invalid, permit, resume, subject, segment, invalid
  • List 4: articulate, deliberate, entrance, micrometer, resign, upset, articulate, deliberate, entrance, micrometer, resign, upset
  • List 5: contest, discharge, extract, precipitate, syndicate, contest, discharge, extract, precipitate, syndicate

VocabularySpellingCity.com provides word lists, printables, and interactive games and activities that give students the opportunity to understand that some words have multiple meanings and to practice distinguishing their meanings through context.

Try Sentence Writing Practice with the Elementary School Heteronyms list.