Homophones, Homographs, and Homonyms

How a homophone mix up led to Judi Dench bread jokes. Homographs and homonyms wouldn't cause that kind of problem.

Mignon Fogarty
5-minute read
Episode #605

The Screen Actors Guild Awards were a couple of nights ago—they’re more commonly called the SAG Awards—and they had a doozy of an error on Judi Dench’s name card. She was nominated for an award called Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role for her work in the movie “Victoria & Abdul,” but instead of spelling it R-O-L-E for “role,” they spelled it R-O-L-L, like the bread.

I’m a sucker for silly jokes, so I loved all the tweets that followed. These are just a few:

Ethan J. Sacks tweeted, “Once again, she’s the toast of Hollywood.” Andy Orrock tweeted, “Finally, payoff for all those upper-crust portrayals.” Jeff, who goes by @musicpsych, gets extra points for using references to bread in two languages by tweeting, “Don’t pan her performance--she really rose to the occasion.” (“Pan” is “bread” in Spanish.) And finally, Mike Davidson capped it off with the quip, “Bread jokes get so stale.”


Words like R-O-L-E and R-O-L-L, which are spelled differently but sound the same are called homophones. The “homo-” root means “same,” and the “-phone” root means “sound.” Homophones are words that sound the same. 

Other examples of homophones are “flower” (the pretty kind with petals) and “flour” (the ground up grain you use in baking), “need” (like “want” or “must have”) and “knead” (as in “to work dough”), and “doe” (the deer) and “dough” (the unbaked bread or cake or so on). You know I had to work in bread examples!

There are two other kinds of words that sound the same but don’t cause as many problems: homographs and homonyms.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.