By Rod Powers

You will need to make yourself familiar with homonyms for the ASVAB. Some words in the English language are spelled the same but have two or more meanings. For example, a fluke can mean a fish, the end parts of an anchor, the fins on a whale’s tail, or a stroke of luck.

Some words are spelled the same but have different meanings and are often pronounced differently. The word bow, meaning a special kind of knot, is pronounced differently from bow, meaning to bend at the waist. Bow, meaning the front of a boat, is pronounced the same as bow (bend at the waist), but bow, meaning a weapon, is pronounced the same as bow (a special knot).

Other words are pronounced the same but are spelled differently and mean something different. To, too, and two and there, their, and there are examples. All these types of words are collectively known as homonyms.

The last type of homonym is especially important when it comes to the Word Knowledge subtest of the ASVAB. The test makers won’t try to trick you by having two homonym answers for words that are spelled the same but have multiple possible answers, but they will use homonyms that are spelled differently and have different meanings.

Flue most nearly means:

  • (A)sickness

  • (B)fly

  • (C)chimney

  • (D)None of the above

You may be tempted to choose Choice (A), but that would be correct if flu were the test word. The past tense of fly is flew. The word flue means a chimney pipe.

You can see an extensive list of homonyms on Alan Cooper’s Homonym Page.

Word Definition Example Sentence
Allowed Permitted He allowed the audience to participate.
Aloud Normal volume of speaking They couldn’t speak aloud in the library.
Cent A bronze coin I couldn’t believe I got the comic book for just one
cent.
Scent Aroma The scent coming from the kitchen made my mouth
water.
Sent Past tense of send He sent the letter Monday.
Cue Stimulus to action A door slamming was his cue to exit the stage.
Queue Line There was a large queue of cars waiting to park.
Die To cease living I’ll die if my parents find out!
Dye To color or stain She wants to dye her hair red.
Elicit To draw or bring out He vowed to elicit the truth from his friend.
Illicit Unlawful He used illicit means to avoid paying taxes.
Fairy Supernatural being The fairy was dancing in the night.
Ferry A boat for crossing rivers or other small bodies of water The ferry took us quickly across the river.
Gorilla Large ape I threw the gorilla a banana.
Guerrilla Irregular soldier The band of guerrillas attacked the convoy.
Hangar Building for airplanes Jack pulled the aircraft into the hangar.
Hanger A device for hanging things Mom said to put the shirt on a hanger.
It’s Contraction of it is It’s a very hot day.
Its Possessive pronoun The bank said its savings accounts were the best.
Know To possess knowledge I know you went to the store.
No Zero or negative I told John there was no way we would travel
together.
Lessen To make less We gave him medicine to lessen his pain.
Lesson Something to be learned We must never forget the lessons of the past.
Mail Postal delivery I expected the check to be in the mail.
Male A gender The teacher asked all males to go to one room and all
females to go to another.
Naval Pertaining to ships He wanted to become a naval officer.
Navel Belly button Mom always said not to play with my navel.
Ordinance Decree or local law Spitting on the sidewalk was against the town
ordinance.
Ordnance Military ammunition We were running low, so we asked the sergeant for more
ordnance.
Patience The ability to suppress restlessness I couldn’t believe her patience with the
students.
Patients People under medical care The nurse treated all her patients with respect.
Reek Bad smell The reek of the skunk invaded the living room.
Wreak Inflict Jack continued to wreak havoc every time he got
upset.
Sleight Dexterity The magician’s sleight of hand was amazing.
Slight Small amount There was only a slight increase in salaries this
year.
Threw Propelled by hand He threw the ball to first base.
Through In one side and out the other Dad drove through the tunnel.
Vary Change The interest rate continues to vary up and down.
Very Extreme I am very happy on the beach.
Weak Not strong After his illness, Paul was very weak.
Week Seven days It’ll take at least a week to finish this
report.
Your Belongs to you Your new car is really cool.
You’re Contraction of you are You’re going to be in trouble when Dad gets
home.