A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 40: -graphs


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about three words ending in -onym that I hadn’t heard before. That post should probably have been called -onyms and not just Nyms, as the correct suffix is -onym and not just -nym (for almost all words). The suffix -onym simply means “word” or “name”.

Today, I went in search of something similar, namely -graphs. The suffix -graph comes from the Ancient Greek word γράφω (gráphō) which means ‘”to write”. Possibly the most well-known (linguistic-related) word in English ending in -graph is homograph: A word that is spelled the same, but has a different meaning. Homographs can be pronounced the same, in which case they are true homonyms as in ‘bat’ (the animal) and ‘bat’ (the verb), or they can also be pronounced differently, as in ‘desert’ (an area where little to no precipitation occurs) and ‘desert‘ (to leave a place).


homeograph, which could be confused for homograph at first glance, is a word that is spelled similar, but not identically, to another word.


An allograph is a variant form of a letter. One of the most obvious examples is the difference between lowercase and uppercase letters, e.g. ‘D’ and ‘d’. Another example of allographs are the different ways to write the lowercase letter ‘a’, either with a hook at the top or without.

a and a

An allograph can also be a variant spelling of a sound. Both ‘c’ and ‘k’ can be used in writing to represent a /k/ sound.


A hexagraph is a specific string of six letters used to represent a single phoneme. We don’t have hexagraphs in English, but they can be found in Irish writing. To borrow from the Wikipedia entry, the string of letters eidhea is used to represent the phoneme /əi̯/ and eabhai is used for /əu̯/. This explains why Irish spelling can look so confusing at first. The purpose of hexagraphs is to indicate that the consonants next to them are palatalized.


A morphograph is defined as a logical fragment of a word (prefix, suffix, etc.) used to teach spelling. In trying to find out more about morphographs, I came across a few websites that advocate the teaching of spelling through morphographs, such as this one. It appears to me that the term ‘morphographs’ is synonymous with ‘morphemes’.


A sinograph is a Chinese character used in writing. The prefix ‘sino’ is common in Korea where a lot of Korean words have come from Chinese. These are known as Sino-Korean words as opposed to the pure Korean words that do not come from Chinese. The prefix ‘sino’ itself comes from the Latin word Sinae which meant ‘the Chinese’.

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This entry was posted on February 9, 2015 by in Language and tagged , , , , .


February 2015

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