Three of the things that can drive people crazy about English spelling and meaning is continual confusion over homonyms, homophones, and homographs.
That's why it's important that both techniques be used in the classroom. That fallacy of either/or causes problems.
The trouble is, perfectly reputable sources define the word homonym differently. That's quite disconcerting when folks defend their viewpoint by noting that, "The dictionary says...." What does one do when the dictionaries are having a brouhaha over meaning? When linguists are getting all huffy?
While reading an academic exploration of the issues called
HOMONYMS, HETERONYMS AND ALLONYMS:A Semantic/Onomantic Puzzle
I found true the following author note: (note is a homonym, by the way)
"Strangely, I have not been able to find any true homonym lists -- words that are pronounced and spelled the same way." -- Fred W. Riggs
I'd been searching all morning for some handy examples. Alan Cooper's list kept bubbling up on many search engines and links, but he's using homophones. ex. ate, eight and wear, where. Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently. Phone/sound. Get it? Some texts agree with Cooper, others do not.
• Our working definition is that homonyms sound the same and are spelled the same. Each word has multiple meanings, however. •
The meaning must be figured out in context. A good dictionary will help in showing wordsmiths how many different meanings a seemingly ordinary word might have. The most useful dictionary site I've found is One Look because it contains immediate access to mainstream and discipline specific dictionaries.
I'm starting a list because I can't find a long one. Yet they are everywhere in common usage. If you can add to it, please do so in the comments section and I'll post it.
Note: I'm pretty sure the homonyms, run and set, are the two words in English with the most definitions and uses, especially if you don't mind idioms.
Here we go: Beverly's Big Bad List of Homonyms
Metaphorical use is welcome. Slang is fine, too.
*This list is meant to be a jump start, not a definitive collection.
crop (thanks, Kyle)