27 tricky homophones

Words that are spelled differently but sound the same can be the cause of some serious confusion. Here’s some help to get it all straight.

Last weekend, I was browsing in the Cajun food section at the grocery store. Near the shelf with all the mixes was a handwritten sign that said, “You’ll roux the day you don’t use our instant roux mix.”

I love clever wordplay, especially when it’s found in unexpected places. This sign was a play on two homophones. Roux is a mixture of flour and fat that is used to make sauces. Rue means to feel regret or remorse.

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same, but have different meanings and are spelled differently. The English language is littered with homophones, and some are more confusing than others. Below are a few examples. (Click on the words for their definitions.)

auger /augur

beer /bier

cache /cash

canvas /canvass

capitol /capital

chord /cord

clew /clue

complacent /complaisant

cue /queue

discrete /discreet

draft /draught

elicit /illicit

epic /epoch

foreword /forward

gilt /guilt

immanent /imminent

incite /insight

lightening /lightning

marquee /marquis

marshal /martial

mean /mien

mucous /mucus

oral /aural

prophesy /prophecy

rancor /ranker

roo /roux/rue

stationary /stationery

Homophones are not to be confused with homographs: words written the same way, but have different meanings and different pronunciations (wind, advocate, bass). And then there are homonyms: words spelled and pronounced the same way, but that have have different meanings (lie, fair).

Readers, any other homophones to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. She writes about writing at impertinentremarks.com.

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