The words gunwhale, gunnel sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Why do gunwhale, gunnel sound the same even though they are completely different words?
The answer is simple: gunwhale, gunnel are homophones of the English language.
Any of various small, elongated fishes of the family Pholidae, common in the tidal pools and coastal waters of northern seas.
Variant of gunwale.
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Definitions from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition and Wordnik.
Homophones (literally "same sound") are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled.