Thursday, May 31, 2007


Is there a word for words which sound similar? My year 12 class were pondering this question early yesterday morning, stimulated by a line of Lucretius:

ergo dissolvi quoque convenit omnem animai
naturam, ceu fumus, in altas aeris auras...

And so it folows that the whole nature of the soul is dissolved,
just like smoke, into the lofty breezes of the air...

[Lucretius, DRN III.455f]

Homophones (from the Greek homos meaning 'same' and phone meaning 'sound') are words that have the same sound, but different meanings (eg their/there/they're), so I proposed that words that have similiar sounds should be called homoiophones, from the Greek homoios, meaning 'like' or 'similar'.

I typed 'homoiophone' into google to see if such a word already existed, and only got one hit, but when I followed the link I couldn't actually discover where it was used on that page. I also got a hit for 'homoiphone'- but only as a misspelling of homophone.


Mike Salter said...

Nice one. I think it should be added to the dictionary.

Of course there's something semi-similar in polyptoton, that use of different inflections of a word in a manner similar to anaphora.

My students always love that word polyptoton, probably because it sounds like some painful growth on a sensitive part of one's anatomy.

There are some good examples of polyptoton on the Wikipedia page, but my own favourite is a line from a comic play done in Shakespearean blank verse, where a group of people are worried about the room where they're planning something being bugged by the Russians. So one of them suggests that they dissimulate their plans for the benefit of the secret microphones, and utters the line:

"By their own bugs the buggers buggered be."

jm said...

the best thing is that homoiophone is, of course, a homoiophone of homophone.

sarah s said...

Yay! I (L) homoiophones! Did you know that I know a lady who works at Collins (the publisher, not the bookstore) and she got us the world's greatest dictionary for half price? Anyway, she is like in charge of what goes in the dictionary, so I will tell her to put homoiophone in.

Persephone said...

And Homophonic.

sarah s said...

Persephone, sorry for stalking you, but I noticed you like Rocky Horror. Nice work!

Mr Morrison I forgot to pay for the excursion today and I am really sorry! Can I pay on Monday? I really hope so; I am looking forward to "Santa Sabrina".

PS: now there are two hits for homoiophone.