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The brain spider

Words that sound the same, but ain't!

November, 2011

It all began with an e-mail from a Saipan Tribune reader, a student of English who was pondering the array of English words that sound alike but aren't spelled alike.  This situation has been aggravated by technology, since these sneaky sound-alike words won't get flagged by spelling programs, which is a trap for the unwary. Yes, Spell Czech is Grate.  Or is it?

I'm not so hot at spelling and I wondered how many of these sneaky words were lurking in my head.  So I unleashed a brain spider to dig them out. This isn't a research project, it's just a memory drill, supplemented with a few contributions from my editors and a Tribune reader. 

The list doesn't count proper nouns (Czech, Gayle, etc.). It's in random order, the same way I keep my address book, so hopefully I don't have any duplicates.

1). Here, hear
2). Their, there, they’re
3). Plane, plain
4). Two, too, to
5). Hare, hair; “harebrained”
6). Great, grate
7). Do, dew, due
8). Write, right, rite; “rite of passage”
9). Role, roll
10). Male, mail
11). Mall, maul
12). Your, you’re;
13). Bore, boar. Also: bored, board.
14). Hi, high
15). Piece, peace
16). Tail, tale
17). Aye, I, eye
18). Son, sun
19). Pee, pea; a distinction that fueled many a joke in second grade.
20). So, sew
21). Bare, bear; third grade for these jokes.
22). Night, knight
23). In, inn
24). Wood, would
25). Hey, hay; “hey” isn’t much of a word so maybe this shouldn’t count.
26). Where, ware, wear; “warehouse”
27). Pare, pair, pear
28). See, sea
29). Nose, knows
30). Pail, pale
31). Blue, blew
32). Dear, deer
33). Fourth, forth; these two are easy to mix up.
34). Main, mane
35). Rode, road; these seem to go together nicely.
36). Lode, load; the “Mother Lode” started the gold rush.
37). Wry, rye
38). Vise, vice
39). Know, no
40). Pain, pane
41). Whole, hole
42). Moat, mote
43). Might, mite
44). Four, fore, for
45). Sine, sign; can you “cosine” for a loan?
46). Wine, whine
47). Bee, be
48). Lead, led
49). Red, read
50). Wet, whet; “whet the appetite”
51). Toe, tow; “toe the line”
52). Not, knot
53). Need, knead, kneed; yet another triple!
54). Doe, dough
55). Days, daze
56). Die, dye
57). Witch, which
58). Principal, principle; this one is tricky
59). Capitol, capital; one squanders the other
60). Wrote, rote
61). Flea, flee
62). Gait, gate
63). Tare, tear
64). Wait, weight
65). Site, sight, cite
66). Serf, surf
67). Racquet, racket
68). Seam, seem
69). Room, rheum; I like this one!
70). One, won
71). Damn, dam
72). Flower, flour
73). Hour, our
74). Rain, reign
75). Red, read
76). Chord, cord
77). Sell, cell
78). Waste, waist
79). Fair, fare
80). Sail, sale
81). Way, weigh
82). Flair, flare
83). Flew, flu
84). Root, route
85). Suite, sweet
86). Gilt, guilt
87). Gild, guild
88). While, wile
89). Past, passed
90). Meet, meat
91). Course, coarse; pilot stuff
92). Wrap, rap
93). Bus, buss; more pilot stuff
94). But, butt
95). Lock, loch
96). Kernel, colonel
97). Soul, sole
98). Feat, feet
99). Heir, air; from the editors
100). Cash, cache; from the editors
101). Knew, new
102). Seed, cede
103). Tea, tee
104). Sore, soar
105). You, ewe; a bit esoteric, I admit, so I’ll skip “new” and “gnu”
106). Base, bass (e.g. “string bass”)
107). Stair, stare
108). Ate, eight
109). Week, weak
110). Seen, scene
111). Beat, beet
112). Pore, poor, pour
113). Hangar, hanger; yet more pilot stuff
114). Bawd, baud; one for the geeks
115). Bite, byte; and another one for the geeks
116). Ball, bawl
117). Wart, wort
118). Maid, made
119). Stake, steak
120). Raise, raze
121). Heal, heel
122). Hail, hale
123). Jeans, genes
124). Peek, peak, pique
125). Straight, strait
126). Vain, vane, vein
127). Ordinance, ordnance
128). Brake, break
129). Catch, ketch
130). Tear, tier
131). Pier, peer
132). Away, aweigh; from reader Bruce Johnson of Northern Marianas College (retired)
133). Knick, nick
134). Hymn, him
135). Sheer, shear
136). Pray, prey
137). Tacks, tax
138). Con, conn; more nautical stuff here, I can't spend all my time thinking about flying
139). Or, ore, oar
140). Steal, steel
141). Feat, feet
142). Real, reel
143). Weather, whether
144). Canon, cannon
145). Phase, faze
146). Heard, herd
147). Knit, nit
148). Stake, steak
149). Plum, plumb
150). Mule, mewl
151). Were, we’re
152). Its, it’s

Photo: Wikipedia

© 2011 Ed Stephens Jr.