Homonyms

What is a homonym in Spanish?

In Spanish, homonyms (las palabras homónimas) are words that are pronounced in the same way but have a different meaning, such as the English there/their or here/hear. Sometimes these words are even written in the same way. Normally we can tell their meaning from the context.

Examples:
hay – aythere is/are – oh
vaya – vallago – fence
baca - vacaroof rack – cow

Example

—¿Y usted no nada nada?

—No... es que no traje el traje.

Types of homonyms

Homonyms are words that are pronounced in the same way but have a different meaning. In some cases they are also written in the same way, while others have different spellings. This happens because there are several letters in Spanish that are pronounced the same: b–v, h–no h, y–ll.

  • Homophones: sound the same.
    Example:
    baca – vacaroof rack – cow
  • Homographs: are written the same.
    Example:
    vino (wine) – vino (came, preterite 3rd person singular of the verb venir)

List of Spanish homonyms

Spanish has many homonyms. The most common homonyms in Spanish are summarised in the table below.

Meaning Homonyms Meaning
(preposition) to
(noun) first letter of the alphabet
a ah (interjection) to express surprise
(interjection) ay
hay
impersonal form of the verb haber (there is/there are)
(adjective) acerbic, bitter acerbo acervo (noun) heritage
(verb) learn aprender aprehender (verb) apprehend
(noun) stream arroyo arrollo (verb) present 1st person singular of arrollar, knock down
(noun) ace in a deck of cards as has (verb) present 2nd person singular of the verb haber
(noun) luggage rack baca vaca (noun) cow
(noun) bank
(noun) shoal of fish
banco
banco
(noun) bench
(noun) baron barón varón (noun) male
(noun) clubs in a deck of cards basto vasto (adjective) vast
(adjective) beautiful bello vello (noun) fine body hair
(noun) beta, second letter of the Greek alphabet beta
veta
(noun) grain
(noun) assets/goods bienes vienes (verb) present 2nd person singular of the verb venir (comes)
(noun) reel, bobbin bobina bovina (adjective) bovine
(verb) bounce botar votar (verb) vote

(noun) boots

(verb) present 2nd person singular of the verb botar

botas votas (verb) present 2nd person singular of the verb votar

(verb) preterite 3rd person singular of callar (shut up)

calló cayó (verb) preterite 3rd person singular of caer (fall)
(verb) shoe a horse herrar errar (verb) miss, wander
(noun) strip of fabric jira gira (noun) tour
(verb) record grabar gravar (verb) engrave
(verb) 3rd person present subjunctive of grabar grabe grave (adjective) serious
(verb) auxiliary verb haber a ver (expression) let’s see

(noun) beech tree

(verb) 1st + 3rd person subjunctive of haber

haya halla (verb) present 3rd person singular of the verb hallar
(preposition) until hasta asta (noun) flagpole
(verb) flick through hojear ojear (verb) skim a text
(interjection) hello hola ola (noun) wave
(noun) hour hora ora (verb) present 3rd person singular of orar
(noun) needle huso uso (noun) use
(noun) daisy
(adjective) Mayan
maya malla (noun) netting
(verb) 3rd person singular of the verb nadar nada
nada
(indefinite pronoun) nothing
(noun) catapult honda onda (noun) wave
(noun) hole hoya olla (noun) pot
(adjective) wise sabia savia (noun) sap
(noun) tea te

(noun) letter of the alphabet

(pronoun)

(verb) scratch rayar rallar (verb) grate
(verb) rebel rebelar revelar (verb) reveal
(noun) riverbank ribera rivera (noun) stream
(verb) present 1st person singular of traer traje
traje
(noun) ∼ de baño, swimming costume

(verb) 1st and 3rd person singular present subjunctive of ir

(interjection) to express disappointment

vaya valla (noun) fence
(noun) wine vino vino (verb) preterite 3rd person singular of venir