lesson, lessen

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

The answer is simple: lesson, lessen are homophones of the English language.

lessen
  1. :: verb-transitive

    To make less; reduce.

  2. :: verb-transitive

    Archaic To make little of; belittle.

  3. :: verb-intransitive

    To become less; decrease. See Synonyms at decrease.

lesson
  1. :: noun

    Something to be learned: lessons from observing nature.

  2. :: noun

    A period of instruction; a class.

  3. :: noun

    An assignment or exercise in which something is to be learned.

  4. :: noun

    The act or an instance of instructing; teaching.

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").