tier, tear

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

The answer is simple: tier, tear are homophones of the English language.

tear
  1. :: noun

    A great rush; a hurry.

  2. :: verb-transitive

    To pull apart or into pieces by force; rend.

  3. :: verb-transitive

    To make (an opening) by ripping: tore a hole in my stocking.

  4. :: verb-transitive

    To lacerate (the skin, for example).

tier
  1. :: noun

    One of a series of rows placed one above another: a stadium with four tiers of seats.

  2. :: noun

    A rank or class.

  3. :: verb-transitive

    To arrange (something) into or rise in tiers: tier a wedding cake; balconies that tier upward.

  4. :: noun

    One that ties: a tier of knots.

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").