I agree with you that this area of English is confusing. When one looks up "homonym" in the dictionary, one gets several definitions, all of which conflict with the others.Originally Posted by RonBee
I favor your method. Make "homonym" the main category and have it mean words that sound alike, are spelled alike, or both. Under that, let's have:
1) homophone: words that sound alike, but are spelled differently.
2) homograph (also called heteronym): words that are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently
3) homomorph: words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same, but which have different meanings (and possibly different etymologies)
The word "homomorph" is not in wide usage yet, and some dictionaries use "homonym" for that use, but they also use homonym for homomorphs and homographs/heteronyms.
I prefer "homograph" to "heteronym" because of the name. "Homograph" means same writing, whereas "heteronym" means different name. Were it up to me, I would use "heteronym" for homomorphs that have different etymologies, but that would be far too confusing.
If the civilized world is not open to "homomorph", then an alternative plan would be to not have a main category and reserve "homonym" (same name) for homomorphs (same form), words spelled alike and which sound alike.