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Bow vs bow

  • Bow and bow 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 bow and bow, where these words came from, and a few examples of their use in sentences.


     

    Bow (bow) means to bend at the waist or dip one’s head in a show of respect. Bow may also mean to accede to someone’s demands. Related words are bows, bowed, bowing. This meaning of the word bow is derived from the Old English word bugan, which means to bend. Bow may also mean the front part of a ship. This meaning of the word bow is derived from the Old Norse word, bogr.

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    Bow (boh) may mean a particular knot tied with two loose loops often used in hair decorations, wrapped packages, or when tying shoes. The word bow may also mean a stringed weapon used to propel arrows. Finally, a bow may be a rod strung with horsehair that is used to play a musical instrument like a violin or cello. The word bow is derived from the Old English word boga, which meant either a stringed bow, an arch, or a rainbow.

    Examples

    Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was defiant on Tuesday, a day before the European Union is to decide whether to end the country’s special trade preferences over human rights concerns, saying the nation “will not bow down” to foreign demands. (Reuters)

    Still, the Queen reportedly spent a few private minutes with him that day — and, as is seen in season 3 of The Crown on Netflix, the Duke reportedly rose from his bed to bow to her. (Good Housekeeping Magazine)

    A 700-pound black bear (Ursus americanus) is the largest of its species to have been shot with a bow and arrow, says bow hunting group the Pope and Young Club. (Newsweek)

    “The bows were placed into the hair not like an accessory but as a hair piece; a ‘bow hat’ – by wrapping the hair around the bow so it was within the style.” (Harpers Bazaar)


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