Boy vs buoy

Boy and buoy are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the words to, too and two are indistinguishable from each other. Pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. We will examine the definitions of the two words boy and buoy, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A boy is a male child, a son, a young man. The plural of the term boy is sometimes used in a familiar manner to refer to a group of males. For example, “The boys are going to play poker.” The word boy is derived from the Old English word boie, which means servant or knave.

A buoy is a floating object that is moored in a bay or channel to indicate hazards, ways that one should navigate a boat, or limits that swimmers should not pass. Buoy may also be used as a verb to mean to lift someone’s mood or to keep something or someone afloat in a literal or figurative sense. Related words are buoys, buoyed, buoying. The word buoy is pronounced in different ways, and some may not consider it a homophone. Often, the word buoy is pronounced boo-ee. The word buoy is derived from the old Dutch word boeye which means signal.


Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar, designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations, is a blue-eyed boy of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI. (The India Times)

Then, he was accused of leading a “boys’ club” culture at the property listings portal, the Herald Sun reported police were called to an altercation at his home (which Catalano says did not involve him) and his last-ditch attempt to scupper the biggest media merger in years fell short. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

This is the heartwarming moment a Filipino diving guide rescues a trapped sea turtle from drowning by untangling it from an underwater buoy rope. (The Daily Mail)

Voter turnout in Florida jumped to more than 52% in last year’s midterm elections from almost 45% in the 2014 midterm races, buoyed by increased ballot-casting by young voters and Hispanics, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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