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Flower and flour are said to be homophones. However, considering the number of different pronunciations (/flaʊə/ like BrE sour, /flou(-ə)r/ like AmE sour, /flɑː/ (forvo) like BrE car, etc.) floating around, are they always homophonous for each particular speaker?

Edit: As tchrist points out in the comments, the same question could be asked of dower and dour.

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    Anecdotally, I'd say usually but not always. I've heard one person pronounce "flour" as a one-syllable word where they pronounce "flower" as a distinctly two-syllable word. I don't know where they learned to speak that way, and I don't know if it's common where they come from. I'm pretty sure that English was their first language (but I suppose there's a chance could be wrong). Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 18:50
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    Ask also about dower/dour which like flower/flour are also always homophones — and unlike the many pairs which are not, like lower/lore, payer/pair, tower/tour, mower/more, layer/lair, power/pour/poor/pore.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 18:58
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    In crosswords, flower is often the cue-word for a river, in which context it's pronounced floe - er. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 19:13
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    Dour is another matter; I happily learned to pronounce it /dʊr/, leaving only dower to rhyme with scour. The number of syllables (one, two, one-and-a-half) is another matter for individual variation, especially since many people epenthesize between two resonants like the /w/ of /'flaw-/ and the final /-r/. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 19:25
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    @FumbleFingers: That's water under the bridge. Commented Jan 7, 2013 at 20:00

4 Answers 4

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The words flour and flower do not only have the same root, but they were also spelled the same until around 1830. (See etymonline.)

Not only did Shakespeare rhyme hour with flower, but he also sometimes spelled them the same.

It fears not policy that Hereticke,
Which works on leases of short numbred howers,
But all alone stands hugely pollitick,
That it nor growes with heat, nor drownes with showres.

The meter requires that most uses of flower I found in his works be pronounced with one syllable.

To thy faire flower ad the rancke smell of weeds,

but there are a few uses that must be pronounced with two syllables:

Flower of this purple die,
Hit with Cupids archery,
Sinke in apple of his eye,
When his loue he doth espie.

Thomas Gray, writing one hundred and fifty years later, does the same thing: hour and lower rhyme:

While Hope prolongs our happiest hour,
Or deepest shades that dimly lower

and flower always seems to be one syllable:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

So it appears that they have been homophones, at least in the London dialect, for over four hundred years.

Wordsworth (1770–1850) also appears to have only used the one-syllable pronunciation of flower, but Tennyson (1809–1892) used both the one- and two-syllable pronunciations:

The purple flower droops; the golden bee
Is lily-cradled: I alone awake.

Both of these poets rhyme flower and hour.

My guess is that if somebody currently uses two syllables for flower and one syllable for flour, the most likely reason is that their pronunciation has been influenced by the spelling.

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    Lower in this sense is, according to the OED, pronounced to rhyme with flower and sometimes spelled 'lour'. Dour rhyming with poor seems to have a Scottish origin; but who would know more about dourness? Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 12:38
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Usually, in most english speakers, they are homophones, but depending on some accents this could change. So you will almost never hear them pronounced differently, however, it is possible.

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No, in Singapore and Malaysia English, flour is pronounced /flɑː/ (while flower is pronounced the same as elsewhere).


A Quora answer (John Tan) claims "that was how the British pronounced it when they were here." (But I doubt any British person ever pronounced it /flɑː/.)

A Reddit post argues this pronunciation "is from vowel coalescence typical of traditional RP speakers".

Edit (following comments): I suspect some British persons did pronounce it something like /flɑ:ə/ and locals then dropped the schwa.

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  • "(But I doubt any British person ever pronounced it /flɑː/.)" - I'm sure they did: it sounds very (almost stereotypical) upper-class."
    – Greybeard
    Commented Mar 24 at 10:31
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    Indeed. I remember Terry-Thomas' "You absolute shower" (pronounced "ebsoliute shaə"). It is indeed cut-glass RP.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Mar 24 at 11:49
  • @AndrewLeach What would "you absolute shower" mean? " you['re an] absolute show off"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 24 at 13:27
  • @Mari-LouA: It's a pejorative expression, a euphemistic shortening of the full phrase "shower of shit(e)" ("shower" as in "rain shower", not the one derived from the verb "show")
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 24 at 14:51
  • @herisson I am very unfamiliar with the expression "shower of shit(e)" but it makes more sense, thank you!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 24 at 14:55
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I was born in England and raised in Ireland. I pronounce them identically. In some accents, they are pronounced differently. My Malaysian wife pronounces flour as one syllable and flower as two.

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