33 homophones that ensnare writers and speakers

A scene from the science fiction parody ‘Galaxy Quest’ offers a jumping off point to understanding these tricky word pairs that sound similar, but mean different things.

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A homophone (or homonym) is a word that is pronounced the same as another, but means something entirely different. Take, for instance, one scene from “Galaxy Quest” in which the crew visits a strange planet in search of a beryllium sphere they need to repair their ship. They encounter a band of tiny, childlike aliens who appear to be mining the planet’s beryllium.

The dialogue is as follows:

Alexander: “Could they be the miners?”
Fred: “Sure. They’re like three years old.” (Everyone looks at Fred.)
Alexander: “Miners, not minors.”
Fred: “You lost me.”

Here are some other homophones—some come in threes—that cause confusion in this and other galaxies. (Click on the words for the definitions.)




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