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.