Limb vs limn

  • Limb and limn are commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones are a group of words with different spellings, the same pronunciations, and different meanings. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that sound the same, and homophones are commonly misused words. Said aloud, the difference is less important, because the words are pronounced the same. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones and understand the correct spelling; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the word pairs to, too and two, bridle and bridal, creek and creak, hoard and horde, toed and towed, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other and are easily confused and are commonly misused. 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, 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 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 in English vocabulary, 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. Homophones are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words limb and limn, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.


    Limb is a noun that may mean a branch of a tree or the arm or leg of a human being. Occasionally, the word limb is used as a verb to mean to cut branches off a tree. Related words are limbs, limbed, limbing. The word limb is derived from the Old English word lim, which also referred to the branch of a tree or the arm or leg of a human being.


    Limn means to outline in sharp detail or to draw on a surface or paint on a surface. Limn is a verb; related words are limns, limned, limning. The word limn is derived from the Middle English word, luminen, which mean to illuminate manuscripts.


    A couple whose infant daughter was killed by a falling tree limb in Central Park has won a $13.75 million settlement, ending a decade-long legal battle with the city and two non-profits that run the park and zoo, The Post has learned. (New York Post)

    Jayne Carpenter, 53, from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, was left with just one limb when she developed sepsis four years ago while suffering with a simple cough. (Daily Mail)

    A reader suggested recently that, instead of describing the relationship between me and my constant companion, Kiki, from my elevated situation, I let her take over for once and limn the details of our life together from her, canine, point of view. (Valley News)

    The issue also contains playlists presented by guest contributors that limn the bounty of Southern music across genres. (Oxford American)

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