You may remember this from grade school, but let’s review anyway, because English words do not always play fair.
Homonyms are words that sound alike (and sometimes, but not always, spelled alike), but have completely different meanings.
Heteronyms are words that are spelled alike (and sometimes, but not always, sound alike), but have completely different meanings.
- Wind (stiff breeze)/Wind (to coil or wrap)
- Produce (fruits and vegetables)/Produce (to create)
- Sewer (where waste products go)/Sewer (a person who stitches)
- Bow (front of a ship)/Bow (the tool used to shoot an arrow)/Bow (bend at the waist)
Of course, then there are the more obscure ones….
Capitonyms are words that change their meaning when capitalized.
- August (the month)/august (revered)
- Polish (from Poland)/polish (used to add a shine)
Autoantonyms (or Contranyms) are words that can have two meanings that are the opposite of themselves.
- Fast (speedy)/Fast (secured)
- Bound (restrained)/Bound (to leap)
- Custom (traditional)/Custom (uniquely personalized)
- Overlook (to watch)/Overlook (to miss seeing)
Having fun? There are more examples and explanations to be found here, at Nym Words.
Oh? And the word that got me thinking about this subject in the first place?
Shingles: Either a building material for roofs or siding; or the dirty, secret, nasty underbelly of a relatively harmless childhood disease which appears as a painful, rash caused by a reactivation of the chicken pox virus years later for no apparent cause. (Um, (cough), you might not want to ask what made me think of this.)