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Is there a word or term denoting a word that has different spellings but means the same thing?

For instance, ax and axe are words that mean the same thing but are spelled differently. A most obvious answer would be a "variant," but that describes the actual spelling difference rather than the word itself. I'm looking for a word much like "homophone," which denotes a word with the same pronunciation as another word but with a different meaning, origin, or spelling, like "new" and "knew."


  • By any definition, new and knew are two different words. The same can be said for lead 'type of metal' and lead 'be followed'.

    It's not so obvious that new and newer are different words. Similarly knew and know, lead 'be followed' and leading 'being followed'. For some purposes it's useful to treat each pair as forms of one word. For other purposes they are different words.

    But In can't see any purpose that can be served by treating axe and ax as anything other than spelling variants of one word.

  • @DavidCrosbie Your answer does not address my question.

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited August 2018

    @Wordsmith18 , my point is that ax and axe are not two words. They mean the same thing because they are the same word. There just can't be any sort of term for this non-existent phenomenon.

    The only valid term for the relationship between ax and axe is variant spelling.

  • Yes, they are called homonyms. I don't understand why the word is not defined by this dictionary.

  • Do not confuse with homophones, which are words that sound alike but have different spellings and definitions.

  • Axe and ax are not homonyms, @scolon205.

    The dictionary on this website does give a definition of homonym

    Each of two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins.
    For example, pole and pole

    I'm pretty sure they're referring to (wooden) pole vs (North) Pole.

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