The Difference Between Homograph, Homophone, and Homonym

wondrous memeDo you know the difference between a homonym and a homophone?  My son and I have practiced for the county spelling bee for weeks – it’s been cancelled twice because of snow – and we’ve had to distinguish between many homonyms/phones/graphs.

Cheers to Mr. Luke Phillips for helping my child, and consequently me, understand the distinction between these words.  In honor of Wondrous Words Wednesday, I will share this knowledge with you.

Please remember to join the fun of the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme by visiting Kathy at Bermuda Onion and writing your own post with interesting words.

Here’s the difference…

Homonym, homophone and homograph share the same Greek root, homos, which means same, similar, or alike.  It’s the second part of each word that gives unique meaning.


  • -nym comes from the Greek onyma meaning name
  • a word that is spelled and pronounced like another word but is different in meaning
  • Examples:
    • bear (noun- animal) and bear (verb – to endure)
    • quail (noun – animal) and quail (verb – to recoil in terror);
    • fair (noun – as in County Fair) and fair (adj – marked by honesty)


  • -phone comes from the Greek phonos meaning sounding
  • a word that is pronounced like another word but is different in meaning, origin, or spelling
  • Examples:
    • sow (verb – to plant seeds) and sew (verb – a needle pulling thread)
    • tea (noun – a drink with jam and bread) and tee (noun – a peg to put a golf ball on)
    • flower (noun – the pretty part of a plant) and flour (noun – ground wheat for baking)


  • -graph comes from the Greek graphos meaning written
  • a word that is spelled like another word but is different in origin, meaning, or pronunciation
  • Examples:
    • bow (noun – ribbon in a girl’s hair) and bow (noun – part of a ship)
    • bass (noun – musical instrument) and bass (noun – a fish)
    • close (adj – nearby) and close (verb – to shut)

If you’d like more detailed explanation, visit

Word Nerd Workout

Tell me if the following word pairs are homonyms, homophones, or homographs.

  1. desert (noun- hot, dry place) and desert (verb- to abandon)
  2. scale (noun – measure weight) and scale (noun a small thin plate on the outside of a fish)
  3. bear (noun- animal) and bare (adj- without covering)
  4. wind (verb- to cause to move in a curving path) and wind (noun- moving air)
  5. plane (noun- flying mode transportation) and plain (adj – without adornment)


Word Nerd Note

The Spelling City site also taught me about Capitonyms, words that are spelled the same except for capitalization.  Sometimes pronunciation differs.

  • Turkey, turkey
  • Mobile (Alabama), mobile
  • May (month), may


I hope you learned something today!


A Book to Make Math Fun

Family MathThis may seem like an odd question on a Word Nerd blog, but…

Do you like math?

In school, math always made me nervous.  I preferred classes like English, history, and foreign languages.  Words made me happy.

It wasn’t until I taught math to middle school students with learning disabilities that I appreciated math’s beauty. It’s black and white.  It’s logical and predictable.  I could explain mathematical concepts to my students easier than I could explain a novel or the inconsistencies of English grammar.

Math didn’t make my stomach hurt anymore.  In fact, I kinda liked it.

Years later, as a parent, I wanted my kids to feel confident in math.  I knew how to encourage reading, but I needed help finding a way to make arithmetic and problem solving fun. Luckily, I found a great book: Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, and Ruth Cossy.

The creators of Family Math used research and experience to develop activities to help “parents and children spend time together doing something that’s fun, challenging, and important.”   Most of the activities use a hands-on approach and a game-like format. Topics include logical reasoning, numbers and operations, patterns, geometry and spatial reasoning, and estimation.

The cool thing about this book is I can sit down with all my kids at the kitchen table and do the activities together, even though my youngest is in second grade and my oldest takes Algebra II.  That’s because Family Math focuses on concepts, basic math skills, and problem solving.  Today we did an activity on palindromes, numbers that look the same forwards and backwards. (just like palindrome words!)  We  found patterns as well as practiced basic arithmetic.

My daughter wants you to know that she is responsible for the lovely coloring here.

My daughter wants you to know that she is responsible for the lovely coloring here.


Every lesson in Family Math explains why the activity is important, how to do it, and offers suggestions for extension or adaptation.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Pico, Fermi, Bagel

  • Why: To practice making deductions by the process of elimination and to reinforce the concept of place value.
  • How: The leader picks a three digit number with no repeating numbers, and players take turns guessing the number.  After each guess, the leader gives clues.  Bagel means no digits are correct, Pico means a digit is correct but in the wrong place, and Fermi means a digit is correct and in the right place.

The Sum What Dice Game

  • Why: To practice addition and mental arithmetic
  • How:  Each player gets a strip with the digits 1-9 on it.  Players take turns rolling two dice.  With each roll, a players may either cover the sum rolled or two numbers that add up to the sum.  When a player can’t cover any appropriate numbers, because they’ve already been used, he’s out and adds up the numbers uncovered.  The goal is to be the player with the fewest numbers (points) uncovered.

My kids have been home from school all week (again.)  With Family Math, we’ve had some fun together while using our brains.  I highly recommend it.

Can you suggest any other books to encourage confidence with math?



What Is a Megabyte Anyway?

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday!  Do you know your computer data terms?  My words this week will take an unusual dive into the world of math, but issues with our satellite internet have forced me to take a close look at data usage and terms relevant to it.

Please visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for more cool words to learn, “mathy” or otherwise.

We moved out to the country for the peaceful lifestyle and bucolic views.  But sometimes, we pay the price.  For example, last week’s “Snowmaggendon” wrecked our long gravel driveway.  Take a look:

the hill

Our slippery, slushy driveway



To play it safe, we keep the cars parked out by the road.  Since our driveway is a third of a mile, I get to take 10 minute walk in 20 degree temperatures before I leave or return to the house.  Nothing like a brisk hike to wake you up and clear your head.

Another joy of country living: Internet service.  The cable company and high-speed phone lines don’t come out to us, so we pay a high premium for satellite service. Lately, the satellite company says we are burning through 15 GB halfway through our billing cycle. I think they are scamming me so I’ll buy more GB, but I have can’t prove it.  Anyone, if you have tech geeks for friends who know how to monitor how much data one uploads and downloads, PLEASE refer them to me.

How can we use so much data when we don’t stream movies?!  I’ve shut off Gmail chat and other program options that constantly update and use data, and now I’m watching the size of downloads closely.  My big question last week was:

What’s bigger?  A MB or a KB?

So here it is, the data vocab breakdown.  I got lots of great info from the Whats a Byte website.

  • Bit = the smallest unit of information a computer uses.
  • Byte = 8 bits.  One byte could = one character; 10 bytes could = one word.
  • Kilobyte (KB) a unit of computer information equal to 1024 bytes; it comes from the fact that 1024 (210) is the power of 2 closest to 1000 (kilo = 1000)
  • Megabyte (MB) 1,048, 576 bytes, and it comes from 1,048,576 = 220, the power of 2 closest to one million (mega = multiplied by one million)
  • Gigabyte (GB) 1,073,741,824 bytes or one billion bytes (giga = billion and comes from the Greek word gigas, giant)
  • Terabyte (TB) equals 1024 gigabytes or 1,099,511,627,776 bytes, or one trillion bytes (tera = trillion or 1012)

Apparently, there’s some controversy with the variation in definitions.  See how a gigabyte can be one billion bytes OR 1,073,741,824 (a little over one million)?  A hard drive might be advertised with a capacity of 250 GB, but since Windows programs stick to the 1,073,741,824 definition, that leaves only 232 gigabytes of available storage to use.

If you want to delve further into the world of computer speak, visit the What’s a Byte site. My head is starting to hurt.

Word Nerd Workout

The gate onto my farm.  Happy trails!

The gate onto my farm. Happy trails!

Do you have any other computer tech terms you’d like to share?  Enlighten us, please!

Thanks for getting nerdy with me.



What to Read When You’re Snowed In

A week of snow days = less writing time for mom.  Winters like this used to frustrate me, however, as my oldest rapidly approaches 15 and the day when he will leave for college, I’m learning to appreciate extra time with my children.  Even if the teens lock themselves in their bedrooms to hide behind loud music.

Virginia schools aren’t made to handle six inches of snow and single digit temps, so I expect my precious ones will spend several more days at home.  Hopefully, it will warm up enough so they can play outside again.  Check out our sledding hill:

sledding hill

Do your kids need something to read?  You might try…

My kids have indulged in excess screen time lately, but I’m proud to say they are still reading too.  Thank goodness for Kindles and digital downloads; even if the road off of our farm is too treacherous for a trip to the library, I can obtain books to put in front of their faces as a diversion from Minecraft and Xbox.

Currently, the Middle Grade readers in my house are enjoyingFirefight

  • The Harry Potter series (and we’re rewatching all the movies in the evening… and staying up too late!)
  • The newest books from The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan (author of The Rangers Apprentice series)
  • The Wright 3 and Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
  • The Warriors series by Erin Hunter
  • The Inquisitor’s Mark by Dianne Salerni

The Young Adult reader liked:

  • Firefight, Reckoners Book 2 by Brandon Sanderson

And for the adults…

Here’s my book club reading list for 2015.  I’ve been staying up too late (see the comment re: Harry Potter above), but I hope to dig into these books soon.  I’m laughing out loud at The Rosie Project so far.

  • speakThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (non-fiction) by Rebecca Skloot
  • Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan (memoir)
  • Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes
  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morten (historical fiction)
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (WWII historical fiction)
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA on sexual assault)
  • The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr (non-fiction on the relationship between humans and technology)

Surely, you can find something here to enjoy on your snow day.

Have any other recommendations to add to the list? 

Thanks and happy reading!


Vocab for the Awkward: Maladroit

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday!  It might be cold outside, but there is plenty to learn inside.  To find more interesting words, visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion.

We finally got a good snow here in Virginia.  (I know you people in the northeast are literally up to your necks in the white stuff and probably don’t share my enthusiasm.  Hang in there Amy.)


The view outside my front door

The view outside my front door

All this snow and ice inspired me to share a wondrous word for the clumsy: maladroit.

That maladroit young man will never be able to negotiate the ice patches on the sidewalk.  Don’t let him outside!

maladroit \ma-lǝ-‘droit\ adj from the French mal + adroit.

  • Very awkward; not skillful or adroit

An easy way to remember this one is that it’s the opposite of adroit, which means very clever or skillful.  (the prefix mal means bad, as in malicious, malware, Malfoy)

Word Nerd Workout

Rosie ProjectThink of a synonym for maladroit or a maladroit character from books and movies.  I’m currently reading The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, and the protagonist, Don Tillman, is a brilliant but socially maladroit professor.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!


Why You Should Read The Inquisitor’s Mark

Inquisitors MarkDo you crave an adventure story to entertain you during these last cold weeks of winter?  I’ve got a great suggestion, especially if you like action, magic, and Arthurian legends.

In January 2015, Dianne Salerni released the second book in the middle grade The Eighth Day series, and I’ve gotta tell you, I liked The Inquisitor’s Mark even better than The Eighth Day.

The Premise

Long ago, King Arthur and Merlin Emrys trapped their enemies into a magical eighth day of the week.  Thirteen year old Jax Aubrey and his friends are modern-day descendants of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. They have special magical powers, including the ability to transition between the eighth day and regular time.  Jax and his companions must use their talents to keep evil sorcerers from breaking the eighth day spell and taking over the world.

What I liked

The first chapter of The Inquisitor’s Mark gives Jax multiple problems to solve, and plenty of obstacles to get in his way.  Jax embarks on a quest to help his liege lady, and plot twists and unexpected revelations kept me up reading later than I should have.

The Inquisitor’s Mark has several good role models for young readers.  In this book, Jax’s guardian Riley is absent much of the time, so Jax must buck up and handle things himself.  It was fun to watch him grow.  I especially like Evangeline, a girl with powerful magical talent who everyone wants – for all the wrong reasons.  Jax and his friend Riley must protect her, but she’s no passive damsel.  During a battle, Riley tries to use his magical gift of command to get Evangeline to escape to safety. But Evangeline chooses to stay and help:

“Stop making me waste my strength fighting you!” she shouted.  “I’m not leaving!

Gotta love a girl with moxie.

Even though kids today don’t worry about clan wars or evil sorcerers, most struggle with knowing who to trust.  Jax, and his younger cousin Dorian, don’t always like the things their friends and family members do, and they must decide where to place their loyalty.

The book ends on a high note for Jax (which so often doesn’t happen with a second book of a series- so thank you Dianne!), but it’s clear that he still faces grave danger.  I can’t wait for the next installment, but I’m afraid that won’t be out for at least a year.

The Eighth DayWhat I struggled with

I read the first book in the series, The Eighth Day, a while ago, so I needed help remembering all the family connections and some key plot points.  Dianne weaves in review during the first few chapters, and even includes a chart for visual people like me, but I was still confused sometimes.

What my son said

My 11-year-old finished The Inquisitor’s Mark a few days after we got it.  He raved about the plot and liked book number two better than The Eighth Day.  He didn’t appreciate all the necessary groundwork laid out in the first book, but The Inquisitor’s Mark fed his craving for adventure.

For more information about The Eighth Day, The Inquisitor’s Mark, or Dianne Salerni, visit her site at  You can also find her on Twitter.  Also, if you are a writer, Dianne is looking for submissions for her monthly critique feature, First Impressions.  I submitted the first page of my manuscript and got helpful feedback.

Have you read either The Eighth Day or The Inquisitor’s Mark?  What do you look for in an adventure story?

Thanks for stopping by!