More nyms

The nym family has many offspring, including exonym and endonym, as discussed yesterday. Here are a few more of their unruly brood:

Homonyms
These are words that are pronounced the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. For example: write (to inscribe), right (correct/opposite of left), rite (ritual) and wright (a maker); night (opposite of day), knight (a chess piece). Many more English homonyms are listed here.

Heteronyms
Words spelled the same, but pronounced differently and having different meanings, e.g. bass (low) and bass (a type of fish); polish (to shine) and Polish (from Poland). Some heteronyms are distinguished by the placement of the stress, others by pronouncation. Polish/polish is also an example of a capitonym, a word that has a different meaning when capitalized.

Antagonyms/Contranyms
These are words with two meanings that contradict each other, such as assume: to actually have (to assume office) vs. to hope to have (he assumed he would be elected). Another example is custom (ordinary vs. special) — It was custom in these parts to have your boots custom made. More examples can be found here.

Anacronym
An acronym that is so well established that its origin as an abbreviation is no longer widely known (a portmanteau of anachronism + acronym), for example scuba and laser.

Ananym
A name written backward and used as a pseudonym.

Eponym
A person after whom a place, thing or event is named. For example the sandwich is named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718–1792), and the word boycott comes from a certain 19th century Irish landlord, Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897).

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

11 Responses to More nyms

  1. AR says:

    In school, we learned that Homonyms were spelled the same but pronounced differently, what Simon called heretonyms. What Simon descibed as Homonyms, we learned as homophones.

    Would SAT (the major high school exam in the US) count as an Anacronym? It used to stand for scolastic aptitude test but now the meaning is lost. Do anacronyms have to be pronounced as an acronym? SAT is always ess ay tee so it probably is not a true anacronym.

  2. TJ says:

    I believe TOEFL is considered as acronym by now :)

  3. Declan says:

    Whats TOEFL?
    I also learnt wright vs right as a homophone. And as a matter of fact, it was described as such in Carol Vordemans Brain Game. (Well something along those lines any way. A quiz show on Sky One)

  4. Adam says:

    I’m not sure if this is on topic, but what would you call it when two seemingly contradictory words (or expressions) have exactly the same meaning?

    I couldn’t care less!
    I could care less!

    Both of these expressions mean “I don’t care”

  5. Joseph Staleknight says:

    An ironym? Or maybe “sacastonym”?

  6. TJ says:

    >> Declan: TOEFL is short form for “Test Of English as Foreign Language” :)

    in countries where english is not the first language we must do such tests to apply for universities and colleges outside. NUIG, Ireland for example requires something around 240 (of 300 i think) CBT (Computer Based TOEFL) which is almost equivalent to 587 (of 600 I think) PBT (Paper Based TOEFL). These previous scores are almost equivalent to IELTS 6.5 or 6. I don’t know what’s the long form of IELTS but seems it can be considered as another acronym :)
    These are quite high scores for the average english speakers here!

    I heard some colleges in UK don’t accept the TOEFL, but require essentially the IELTS. For us, IELTS is harder than TOEFL. For me I consider it so because it highly depends on british english and not the american one like TOEFL!

  7. Simon says:

    IELTS = International English Language Testing System. We recommended that all students going to study in the UK take this test when I worked for the British Council in Taiwan. In Chinese it’s 國際英語測試制度 (guójì yīngyǔ cèyàn zhìdù), or 雅思 (yǎsī) for short. TOEFL is 托福 (tuōfú).

  8. Heming says:

    What about words that are spelled AND pronounced the same, but have different meanings? What kind of nyms are they?

    For example “hoppe” in Norwegian (/hop:@/) can mean “to jump” or “mare” (as in the horse). In English “well” is an example: All’s well that ends well, he said, and jumped in the well.

  9. Simon says:

    Heming – words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings are called homonyms.

  10. Lev says:

    And I used to think “peer” was the only antagonym in English…

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