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Recently I had a discussion with a friend about the "solidity" of the English language in respect to Chinese. (By "solidity" we meant the reduced possibility for interpretation errors and misunderstanding - for which the Chinese language is nutritious and can actually be considered one vast homonym.)

This conversation triggered a question in my mind about homonyms, and when I wanted to search examples for myself, I could only find one or two.

By homonym for this question I mean nouns which have the same pronunciation, exact same spelling, but totally different meanings, e.g.:


Flour - Flower

(different spelling, same pronunciation)

Desert - Dessert

(similar/different spelling, different pronunciation but accent dependent)

Wind (air movement, noun) - Wind (to coil, verb)

(same spelling, different pronunciation but one is a verb)

but more like:

BOW (weapon) - BOW (ribbon)

(I intentional exclude the verbs for the purpose of this question because they are influenced by the time tense, and it is easy for something to occur like "DOVE" (the bird) and "DOVE" (past of dive).)

So my questions are:

  1. How many of these exist?

  2. Please give me more examples (or point me to a comprehensive list if it exists - I could not find one for some reason).

  3. What is the REASON for the existence of those homonyms, except the obvious reasons of foreign-language-imports and historical similarity in use ? (I know it is a difficult question, but still - I try :-) - feel free to ignore that part.)

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closed as not constructive by waiwai933 Jun 15 '12 at 5:38

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Your question has been closed because it is asking for a list (or a pointer to a list). This type of question is not a good fit because there is no definitive or right answer; instead, there are very possibly a great many answers, which does not work well with a Q/A platform, which is what English Language and Usage is. –  waiwai933 Jun 15 '12 at 5:40
Re lists, use search string homonyms list in google; first three hits are: Alan Cooper's homonyms, List of 100 Homonyms by Grace Fleming, and 200 Homonyms ... by Richard Nordquist. –  jwpat7 Jun 15 '12 at 5:43
@waiwai933: however, question 2 may be of interest. –  nico Jun 15 '12 at 6:04
@waiwai933 - I understand - but if you will read more carefully - I was asking for the NUMBER of how many exist (which may well be that no one here will know - but it is quite a definite question with a potentially definite answer ) or examples. (the list request was in parenthesis for a reason) –  Obmerk Kronen Jun 15 '12 at 6:37
@jwpat7: Interesting lists, but they are homophones instead of homonyms. (OK, Google cannot know that, it just reads the titles, and if those is wrong, Google falls for them.) –  Stephen Jun 15 '12 at 7:04

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