Homographs, not to be confused with homonyms or homophones, are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. They can be verbs, nouns, or adjectives with or without the same pronunciation. For example, a bat is both an animal and a piece of equipment used in baseball.
Here are some more examples of homographs in sentences:
He placed the ring on her finger.
Did your phone ring?
The boy dove into the water.
The dove is flying in the air.
The football match ended in a tie.
He wore a beautiful tie to match his suit.
The baby had a pink bow in her hair.
The archer held his bow high.
You should bow before the king.
How to use Homographs in Your Writing
Homographs can be used in your writing to create interest or humor for your readers. Many authors and poets use them to create puns and double entendres. Homographs are especially good literary devices for writing poetry.
A pun is a silly joke exploiting the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings. That is, puns are jokes made specifically with homographs. You can use puns in your writing to incorporate some dad-joke humor.
Here are some examples of punny jokes:
Why did the teacher wear sunglasses?
Because his students were so bright.
Here, “bright” is a homograph meaning intelligent as well as shining, so the teacher puts on sunglasses to shade his eyes from his students’ cleverness.
What does the dentist of the year get?
She gets a little plaque.
In this pun, “plaque” is a homograph meaning a type of award, usually some wooden or metal object to commemorate an achievement, and a sticky deposit on teeth that dentists remove.
My dad made a joke about the TV controller.
It wasn’t remote-ly funny.
This joke explores the homograph “remote,” meaning both a device used to control a TV and distant/far from (as in far from being funny). In this case, the pun also makes use of the synonyms “controller” and “remote.”
A double entendre is a word or phrase open to two interpretations, one of which is usually risqué or indecent.
Here’s an example:
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The lady at the fruit stand chatted to me, but I was distracted by her melons.
On the one hand, the writer could be describing how they became distracted by fruit, but most readers would instantly associate the word “melons” with the slang term for a woman’s breasts.
Homographs Used for Double Meaning (Minus the Risqué)
Of course, you can opt to use homographs in your writing to create double meaning in a general sense.
Here are some famous examples:
“But they wouldn’t leave me alone. They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they failed to point the conversation at me, every now and then, and stick the point into me.”
– Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
In this quote, every time the conversation is pointed (directed) at Pip, it is like a point (a sharp object) in him. This is used to show the cruel environment Pip is in.
“Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”
– Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
At this point in the play, Mercutio is using “grave” to mean he will be a serious man and also signify his fate in the grave – death. Shakespeare is using comedy to make light of Mercutio’s misfortune.
In this poem, “rose” functions as a flower, and the past tense of the verb “to rise.” Whilst the verb might at first seem to be the more relevant meaning, references to “scent” and, “blue-green perfume” conjure up a link to the floral, fragrant meaning of “rose”, making the writers intended meaning ambiguous.