How do you pronounce these words?

2 min read

Have you ever heard of heteronyms? They’re words that are spelled the same, but pronounced differently. Heteronyms often have multiple pronunciations and meanings. Can you think of any heteronyms you use every day? Here are some that might come to mind.


Remember those vinyl disks spinning on a turntable to produce music? That’s a record (REK-ord) and they’re making a comeback. However, musicians first have to record (ree-CORD) their songs before the album is sold.


If you’ve coiled something — like a string — around another object, you’ve wound (WOW-nd) it up. If your intent is to hurt someone (whether physically or with words), you’ll wound (WOO-nd) them. You can wound up a rubber band, snap it, and wound someone nearby. We don’t recommend you try this.


The pronunciation difference with graduate not only changes the word, but the part of speech as well. To graduate (GRAD-joo-ate), you cross the stage in your robe and tassel and accept your diploma. If you’re a graduate (GRAD-joo-uht), you are the person crossing the stage.


You’ll be glad to know that this is one case where the two pronunciations have absolutely no correlation. One sewer (SOO-er) is the underground tunnel system for household waste. The other sewer (SO-er) is known more professionally as a tailor and makes and mends your clothes.


The meanings behind the heteronyms "excuse" and "excuse" are so similar that the only ways to differentiate the two is through parts of speech and the way the “S” sounds in the last syllable. The noun excuse (ex-KYOOS) is the word to describe a reason for not completing your chores. In cases like these, you can use the verb excuse (ex-KYOOZ) to get out of the situation and pretend you’ve got to run an errand.


The only similarity between minute (MIN-uht) and minute (my-NOOT) with a long “I” is that the words both reference something small. In fact, minute with a long “I” is defined as something tiny or of little significance. A 60-second minute, however, is a unit of time that is very brief.


How do you pronounce this one again? The good news is that if you guess, you’ll probably get at least one version right. If you pronounce the word as "sluff," you’re describing a snake’s skin. "Sloo," however, is a marshy area, while "slow" (rhymes with cow) is a deep, muddy hole.


You probably recognize nuns as religiously affiliated women, but did you know nun can also rhyme with the word noon? If you say it like that, it’s the fourteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet.


You can deliberate (de-LIB-er-ate) the pronunciations for many words — especially if you have an accent. Plenty of arguments spring from these conversations. However, don’t be deliberate (de-LIB-er-uht) in your intentions to feud if you want to keep your friends.

Photo credit: Dmitry Bayer/ Unsplash

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