Homonyms in English: Some Tricky Ones

English has a lot of things that can trip up (confuse) English students, and one of the trickiest ones are homonyms. Homonyms in English are words that are both pronounced and spelled the same, but have different meanings. This can be particularly confusing (hard to understand) when you’re reading, as you have to use the context clues in the sentence to understand what is being said.

Homonyms are a particularly advanced part of learning English, but we’re here this week to help explain some of the interesting ones. Once you know what to look out for, you’ll hopefully be able to pick other ones out (find) in the future. Check out some of these great homonyms in English, and take your vocabulary to the next level!


Meaning 1: (n) the sound made by a dog

Meaning 2: (n) the tough exterior covering of a tree or stem

These two homonyms in English may look and sound exactly the same, but their meanings could not be more different! One common idiom (phrase) in English is, “their bark is worse than their bite,” which means that they may sound and act tough and/or mean, but in reality they’re not that tough at all.

For example:

  • I could hear my dog’s bark from the other room.
  • She touched some bark on the trees as she was walking through the forest.


Meaning 1: (n) a fur dealer

Meaning 2: (adj) more furry

A furrier probably prefers furrier animals, as they would get better prices for their goods (wares, things they sell). I personally am not a fan of buying or wearing fur, but I do think it’s interesting that these homonyms have meanings that are similar.

For example:

  • The furrier took his furs to the coat maker to be sold.
  • My pets always get furrier in the winter. I love their winter coats!


Meaning 1: (n) a heavy-coated (fur) working dog of the New World Arctic region

Meaning 2: (adj) a voice that is hoarse, usually with emotion

Growing up, I always thought I would buy a husky, mostly because my favorite movie was Balto (if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it!). If someone ever bought me a husky, my voice would probably get husky as I tried not to cry.

For example:

  • The best dog I ever met was part husky.
  • He tried to hold back tears, which made his voice husky.


Meaning 1: (adj) sincerely or deeply felt

Meaning 2: (n) a type of liqueur

Both of these words are a bit older, but they’re still worth knowing! One is a way of behaving (acting), and the other is something you can drink.

For example:

  • She was very cordial to her guests at the holiday party.
  • We all drank a lovely cordial after dinner.


Meaning 1: (n) a type of ground-dwelling songbird

Meaning 2: (v) to engage in harmless fun or mischief (often used with about)

Do larks lark about? Who knows, but it would definitely be fun to imagine!

For example:

  • I love hearing the larks sing in the springtime.
  • The children larked about the neighborhood after school.


Meaning 1: (n) a burial place

Meaning 2: (adj) very serious

Typically, when people are standing at a grave, they look grave. These are two other homonyms that have similar meanings, but are still very different.

For example:

  • The graves looked very creepy (scary) on Halloween.
  • The boss looked very grave when he fired his employee.

Have you heard of any of these homonyms in English before? Do you know any others? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in English10 Business English Idioms You Should KnowDouble Negatives in English, or these 7 Spanish Words Used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and admits that though sometimes she was victim of these most commonly confused words – she isn’t any more! 

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