tern, terne, turn

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

The answer is simple: tern, terne, turn are homophones of the English language.

  1. :: noun

    A three-masted schooner.

  2. :: noun

    Any of various sea birds of the genus Sterna and related genera, related to and resembling the gulls but characteristically smaller and having a forked tail.

  3. :: noun

    Games A set of three, especially a combination of three numbers that wins a lottery.

  1. :: noun


  1. :: verb-transitive

    To cause to move around an axis or center; cause to rotate or revolve.

  2. :: verb-transitive

    To cause to move around in order to achieve a result, such as opening, closing, tightening, or loosening: turn the key; turn a screw.

  3. :: verb-transitive

    To alter or control the functioning of (a mechanical device, for example) by the use of a rotating or similar movement: turned the iron to a hotter setting.

  4. :: verb-transitive

    To perform or accomplish by rotating or revolving: turn a somersault.

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").