reek, wreak

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

The answer is simple: reek, wreak are homophones of the English language.

  1. :: verb-intransitive

    To smoke, steam, or fume.

  2. :: verb-intransitive

    To be pervaded by something unpleasant: "This document ... reeks of self-pity and self-deception” ( Christopher Hitchens).

  3. :: verb-intransitive

    To give off or become permeated with a strong unpleasant odor: "Grandma, who reeks of face powder and lilac water” ( Garrison Keillor).

  4. :: verb-transitive

    To emit or exude (smoke, for example).

  1. :: verb-transitive

    To inflict (vengeance or punishment) upon a person.

  2. :: verb-transitive

    To express or gratify (anger, malevolence, or resentment); vent.

  3. :: verb-transitive

    To bring about; cause: wreak havoc.

  4. :: verb-transitive

    Archaic To take vengeance for; avenge.

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").