An acronym of other words.

UNESCO can be pronounced as a word by itself. It stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

ANZAC is a common word in Australia and New Zealand. It is an acronym of the main letters in Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. It is sometimes printed as Anzac.

Radar is a common word. It is an acronym, too. It comes from the phrase radio detecting and ranging.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation gives rise to ABC. This cannot be pronounced as a word by itself, but only as the three letters ‘Ay Bee See’. It is called an initialism. Other initialisms are USA, UK and PNG (Papua New Guinea).


An eponym is a name derived from the name of a person. The word was coined in the 19th century from Greek eponumos, giving a significant name. Here are a few examples:

boycott From Captain Charles C.Boycott (1832–1897), an Irish land agent who charged very high rents. Tenants refused to pay, and cut off his mail, food and other deliveries.

cardigan James Thomas Cardigan (1797–1868), the 7th Earl of Cardigan. He may have popularised the knitted woollen jacket even though he did not  invent it.

diesel From Rudolf Diesel (1858–1913), who invented the diesel engine.

leotard Named after Jules Leotard, a 19th century French aerial gymnast.

salmonella poisoning Nothing to do with salmon! It was first identified by Daniel Elmer Salmon (1850–1914).

sandwich Popularised by John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718–92), who liked quick snacks while he was at the gaming table.

saxophone Invented by Antoine Joseph Sax (1814–1894).

Some others: biro, boysenberry, epicure, hoover, jovial, macadamia, nicotine, shrapnel, silhouette, teddy bear, volt. Look them up to get the full story behind them.

Homonyms & homophones

Because English words come from many sources, some of them look similar to other words. Some even look exactly the same or are pronounced the same way.

Words which sound alike are called homophones. Words which sound and perhaps look alike but have different meanings are called homonyms. Here are a few examples from a list  Have a browse, and then add your own examples!

(There could be slight differences in pronunciation, depending on where you live.)

alter to change 

altar  an altar can be found in some churches.


ashore  to the shore, towards land. The boat pulled ashore.   

assure I assure you that everything is OK.   


ate  Past tense of ‘eat'.  At dinner, she ate all her food.   

eight  8.  


bail  1.  Some people who appear in court are released on bail.   2.  A bail is a small wooden piece on top of cricket stumps. Check your dictionary for different meanings.

bale  1. Verb. He baled out of the aircraft  = he jumped out. 2. Noun. Bundle. The farmer had a bale of hay. Check your dictionary for other meanings.


bean  a type of seed you can eat. We buy baked beans in cans.

been Where have you been? I have been to Darwin.    


blew  Verb, past tense of ‘to blow’.  The wind blew strongly.  

blue a colour; the colour of the sky. 


bore  1. Verb. To make a hole by drilling or digging.  2. Noun. A person who talks so much that you get tired.  3. bore is also the past tense of `bear' = carry. 

boar  a male pig. 


council  We pay rates to the City Council.   

counsel  Verb. To advise, to offer help.  


caught  Past tense of ‘catch'.  She caught the ball.  

court  1. Noun, place where a judge sits and cases are heard. She was tried in court.  2. Noun, a place where games are played. A tennis court.  3. Verb, to seek someone's favours. He courted the girl.  


currant  a dried grape, used in making cakes. 

current  flow of electric power or of water. 


floor  We walk on the floor.  

flaw  fault.  There is a flaw in this vase. It is cracked.  


hair  Hair grows on your head.  

hare  A hare looks like a rabbit. (You could create an interesting scenario based on a misunderstanding of the difference!)


law  A criminal breaks the law.  

lore  traditional knowledge or belief. According to popular lore, you should not walk under a ladder. It will bring you bad luck.  


malt  Malt is made from barley, and used in making drinks.  

moult  When a bird moults, it loses it feathers.  Molt in the USA.


meat   Let's eat the meat for our dinner.  

meet  Let's meet at your house for dinner.  

mete  Verb. To measure or ration out.


miner  someone who digs underground. 

minor  1. Smaller or less important. 2. A child.

mynah  A type of bird.


past  The time is ten past nine. History is about the past.  

passed  The time passed quickly. We passed by the museum. (These two are sometimes confused by students.)    


prize  Noun,  an award. He received first prize for his essay. Verb,  to value something. She prized her large roses.  

prise  to pull apart or force open. 


rain  Noun. Is there any rain? Verb. It is raining heavily! 

reign  Noun. The Queen's reign has been a long one. Verb. Father reigned over the family like a king. 

rein   Noun, a strip of leather used to control a horse. Verb, figurative, to rein means to control.


right  1. correct. You are right. He is wrong. 2. a fair claim. We will fight for our rights. 3. opposite of ‘left'.  She used her right hand to write. 4. right now, right away = at once, immediately. 

write  put words on paper with pen or pencil. 

rite  a ceremony, usually in a church. 


saw  1. Verb, past tense of ‘see'. We saw you coming. 2. Noun, tool for cutting wood.  Use a saw to cut off the branch. 3. Verb, cut (wood). Did you saw down the branch?  4. Noun, a proverb or memorable short saying.

sore  1. painful.  I hurt my leg. It is sore. 2. a wound or inflamed area. He has a sore on his leg. 

soar  to fly high. 


A lot more homophones here


A lot more homonyms here


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