Is there a grammatical term (in either German or English) to refer to different German nouns with the same spelling but different genders?

In particular, I am referring to items on this list such as das Zoll (the inch) vs der Zoll (customs), etc.

I'm not sure that I would call them homonyms or heteronyms but I don't know how much I can bend English vocabulary since English lacks the concept of nouns having a gramatical gender.

1 Answer 1


These are indeed homonyms or hetereonyms (Homonyme / Heteronyme) in German. Their classifications fit perfectly

Words with the same spelling and same pronounciation but different meaning (Homonym)

As amadeusamadeus has noted in the comments, homonyms with different gender are sometimes refered to as uneigentliche Homonyme (improper homonyms)

Words with the same spelling, but different pronounciation and meaning (Heteronym)

A less technical term for homonyms is the German game Teekesselchen where people describe a word with different meanings (and possible different articles), which another group of people then have to guess.

An example for a German Heteronym would be

Das Band (the ribbon)
Die Band (the band, pronounced as in English)

  • I guess in English, the term homonym often implies different spelling but same pronunciation (e.g. there vs their) however the German usage of Homonym is closer. But does German have Heteronyms? Are any of those items on that list pronounced differently than their pair? Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 11:46
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    I agree that they're homonyms, but the OP asked whether there was a term for differently gendered homonyms. That's slightly more specific: wouldn't be it possible for two German homonyms to be of the same gender?
    – rjpond
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 11:46
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    Partial homonyms that differ, e.g., in gender are sometimes called uneigentliche Homonyme. Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 12:16
  • I addressed some comments. Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 12:41
  • other examples: "die Bank" - has a lot of meanings: financial institute, bench, riverside ... etc. | "die Feder" --> feather, a steel-spring, pen ... etc. In both examples same gender and equal pronouncing - the meaning depends only on the current context. A lot of another examples and differences at: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 11:30

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