Literally: “same name”
In linguistics, a homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. Thus homonyms are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling). The state of being a homonym is called homonymy.
Examples of homonyms are the pair stalk (part of a plant) and stalk (follow/harass a person) and the pair left (past tense of leave) and left (opposite of right). A distinction is sometimes made between “true” homonyms, which are unrelated in origin, such as skate (glide on ice) and skate (the fish), and polysemous homonyms, or polysemes, which have a shared origin, such as mouth (of a river) and mouth (of an animal).
In non-technical contexts, the term “homonym” may be used (somewhat confusingly) to refer to words that are either homographs or homophones. The words row (propel with oars) and row (argument) and row (a linear arrangement of seating) are considered homographs, while the words read (peruse) and reed (waterside plant) would be considered homophones; under this looser definition, both groups of words represent groups of homonyms.
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