Agape vs agape

Agape and agape  are two words that are spelled identically but are pronounced differently and have different meanings, which makes them heteronyms. These word pairs are often misused words. Heteronyms exist because of our ever-changing English language, and these words with the same spelling and different pronunciation and meaning are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that look the same but are not pronounced the same, and how to use them in sentences, because they are easily confused. The way the pronunciations and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling and misuse by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice, and learning words in English by studying a dictionary of the English language. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word tear meaning a liquid drop that falls from an eye is derived from the Old English word tear, meaning a drop or nectar; tear meaning to pull apart comes from the Old English word tearan, which means to lacerate. Heteronyms are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced differently but are spelled the same and come from a different etymology. They are often used in puns and riddles. When reading, it is sometimes difficult to know which word is being used in a sentence and how to pronounce the word phonetically. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check for these commonly confused words but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a heteronym in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Do not confuse heteronyms with homophones, which are two or more words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings like sow and sew; do not confuse them with homonyms, which are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings like spring as in spring forth and spring as in the season of the year. Heteronyms are a type of homograph, which is a word that is spelled the same as another word but has a different meaning. We will examine the definitions of the words agape and agape, where these words came from, and a few examples of their use in sentences. 

Agape (uh GAYP) is a modifier that means wide open; often the word agape is used to describe someone’s mouth that is wide open in surprise. The modifier agape is derived from gapa, which is an old Norse word that means mouth opened wide, and the prefix a-, which is an intensifier. The word agape has been in use since the 1600s.

Agape (ah GAh pay) is a noun that means God’s love or altruistic love. Agape is a type of love that is given freely with no thought of reciprocation; it is not emotional love or sexual love. The word agape is derived from the Greek word, agapē, which means a brotherly love.


One dead white eye stares up from the plate, mouth agape in some infernal scream, slathered in a sauce the colour of searing flame. (Daily Mail)

By word of mouth—by word of horrified, perplexed, agape mouth—Squid Game is currently the most watched series on Netflix. (Men’s Health Magazine)

But while they all depict love for the deserving and desired, agape goes the extra mile of loving even the undeserving and repulsive. (The Guardian Nigeria)

Getting vaccinated is an act of agape love for my neighbors. (Baptist News Global)

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