Homo-What?

I’ve always considered myself to have a pretty strong grasp on grammar, and English language arts in general. Lately, though, I think some terms have come into confusion.

I teach at a tutoring center, which baffled me the other day. I have to teach homonyms and multiple meaning words. One problem- they’re the same thing.

I looked up homonym and got the following definition: “one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning (as the noun quail and the verb quail)”

This matches with what I think a homonym is. It’s the same word with a different meaning.

What I’m being asked to teach as “homonyms” are actually homophones- words that sound alike but are spelled differently. The same handy dictionary had the following to say on the matter: “one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (as the words to, too, and two)”.

How did these two terms not only become confused, but become synonymous. (The dictionary actually suggested that “homonym” is a synonym for “synonym”. I was beside myself!)

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