Posts tagged: homonyms

Feb 16 2016

Word Addiction :: Broach vs Brooch

The word “broach” is a verb, meaning “to bring up” (and other similar things). It is not a noun. It is never a noun.

When you are talking about a large pin, the word you are looking for is “brooch.” It is a noun. It is always a noun.

Jan 18 2016

Word Addiction :: Weary vs Wary

“Weary” means “tired.”

Most of the time when you tell someone to be “weary” what you actually mean is for them to be “wary.”

“Wary” means “careful” or “aware of danger.”

As you can see, these two words are nowhere near related.

Dec 21 2015

Word Addiction :: Walla vs Voilà

“Walla” is probably not the word you’re looking for.

What you mean is “voilà.”

Voilà is a French word, which means “Presto!” or “There it is!”

I am sure you are confused since the “v” sound is often pronounced very softly by native French speakers (and presumed absent in Canadian French; any Québécois out there able to shed some light on this one?), but I assure you it is there.

According to my research, “walla” is a sound effect that imitates the general hubbub of a crowd of people in a movie or TV show.

It apparently could also be a bowdlerization of the Arabic term for God or requesting God’s blessing.

Regardless, most situations in which I see “walla” being used are obviously situations in which the author is looking for the word “voilà.“

Nov 16 2015

Word Addiction :: Tenant vs Tenet

If you are talking about a person who rents an apartment or a house, or a business that rents a shop front, then okay, “tenant” is the word you’re looking for.


If you are talking about core beliefs or principles, the word you are looking for is “tenets.”

Oct 19 2015

Word Addiction :: Peak vs Pique vs Peek

When you are showing off your wares, you are offering a “sneak peek,” not a “sneak peak.”

A peek is a look at something.

A peak is the top of a mountain.

And just so you know, when you’re increasing someone’s interest in something…

…you’re “piquing” it, not “peaking” it, and certainly not “peeking” it. (Present tense of that homonym is “pique.”)

Sep 11 2012

Writing Tips: Spelling (Homonym edition)

I’m sure I’ll come back to the topic of spelling a few times, as it’s one that definitely needs a lot of attention in general.

It’s important to do your best to ensure that you spell words correctly in pieces you are submitting somewhere. While your friends probably don’t mind as long as they can understand what you’re trying to say in an e-mail, you need to use correct spelling in your formal writing. This helps to ensure clarity, and it helps to present you as a smart, professional person who can do your job well.

Most word processing programs these days include a spell-check, but these will not catch homonyms (words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings). If you know that you have trouble with spelling words correctly, make use of the spell-check in your word processing program, but then ask someone else to look it over and make sure you didn’t use an incorrect word somewhere.

Here are a couple of homonyms I’ve seen misused lately:

  • brooch (a type of pin)/broach (a verb meaning “to introduce”)
    She put the brooch on her shawl.
    He was afraid to broach the subject of moving, but it was necessary.
  • peek (a verb meaning “to look briefly”)/peak (the top of a mountain)/pique (a verb usually used to mean “to excite”)
    The shop seller posted a sneak peek of the goods that would be on sale next week.
    Shannon reached the peak and looked around at the valley spreading below her.
    Aaron’s interest was piqued by the blurb on the back of the book, so he bought it.

Homonyms can be really difficult to get the hang of. If you’re ever unsure, look up the word in a dictionary or ask someone else if you’re using the correct word in your sentence. A good online resource is, which includes a thesaurus so if you aren’t sure how to spell a word but you know what you want to say, you can type that in and find the word there. Please don’t simply type your word into Google and see how it’s spelled there or how it’s used there; people on the Internet are notorious for mis-spelling words and using them incorrectly. It’s always better to check a dictionary!

Remember: Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings. Ask someone else to read over your formal writing to ensure that you used the right words in the right places to get your meaning across clearly. If you are stuck with online sources only, try or another online dictionary instead of Google.

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