wails, whales

The words wails, whales sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Why do wails, whales sound the same even though they are completely different words?

The answer is simple: wails, whales are homophones of the English language.

wails
  1. :: noun

    A loud, bitter protest: A wail of misery went up when new parking restrictions were announced.

  2. :: noun

    A long, loud, high-pitched sound: the wail of a siren.

  3. :: noun

    A long, loud, high-pitched cry, as of grief or pain.

  4. :: verb-transitive

    Archaic To lament over; bewail.

whales
  1. ::

    Bay ofWhales An inlet of the Ross Sea in the Ross Ice Shelf of Antarctica. It has been used as a base for Antarctic expeditions since 1911.

Definitions from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition and Wordnik.

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About Homophones

Homophones (literally "same sound") are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled.

If they are spelled the same then they are also homographs (and homonyms); if they are spelled differently then they are also heterographs (literally "different writing").