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We’ve all heard of synonyms and antonyms. But have you ever heard of a heteronym?

Heteronyms are words that are spelled identically but have different meanings depending on how they are pronounced.

Consider the following sentence:

He fished for bass while the bass sang in the background. The first bass (with a short a) refers to edible, freshwater fish. The second bass (with a long a) refers to the lowest voice in a four-part chorus.

As in this case, heteronyms often have no relationship to each other except for spelling. Appropriate is an adjective meaning “suitable” when pronounced one way; it’s a verb meaning “to set apart” when pronounced differently. A primer, depending on pronunciation,  may mean an undercoat of paint or a book that covers the basics.

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