re, ray

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

The answer is simple: re, ray are homophones of the English language.

ray
  1. :: verb-transitive

    To send out as rays; emit.

  2. :: noun

    Mathematics A straight line extending from a point. Also called half-line.

  3. :: noun

    Slang Sunshine: Let's go to the beach and catch some rays.

  4. :: noun

    A thin line or narrow beam of light or other radiant energy.

re
  1. :: noun

    Music The second tone of the diatonic scale in solfeggio.

  2. :: preposition

    In reference to; in the case of; concerning.

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").