Minute and Minute - Homographs

Vocabulary | Confusables | Humour


Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.


Certain words in English are so alike that they confuse even native English speakers. Words like their and there for instance are often confused. The Activities here look in detail at some of the most common confusable words and give you plenty of explanation into how to use them correctly as well as plenty of exercises to help you avoid making mistakes in the future. 


These English Activities are built around English jokes. The jokes may be old or new; they may be very funny or just amusing. The language of the joke is explored, and you will begin to understand a very important aspect of the English language - humour. Many students of English, be they students of English as a second language or of English as a foreign language, find it very difficult to "get" English jokes. British humour has a strong satirical element aimed at showing the absurdity of everyday life. A lot of English humour depends on cultural knowledge and the themes commonly include the British class system, wit, innuendo, to boost subjects and puns, self-deprecation, sarcasm, and insults. As well as this, English humour is often delivered in a deadpan way or is considered by many to be insensitive. A particular aspect of British English humour is the humour of the macabre, were topics that are usually treated seriously are treated in a very humorous or satirical way.

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In this lesson, we will look at two of my video English lessons, one showing you how homonyms can be the basis for English jokes, and the other looking at the two words minute and minute. If you don’t know why these two words are different, then this lesson is certainly for you. The first video takes just one minute and 216 words to teach you all about the words minute and minute. The other video is a fun joke to help you understand why Tony's pet newt is called Tiny. After you have watched the videos, we will look at some of the more common homographs in English like: bass, bow, close, content, desert, incense, insult, invalid, object, read, row, suspect, tear, wind, and wound.  

From The OED on CD-ROM

minute, a. (mɪˈnjuːt, maɪˈnjuːt) 

†1.1 Chopped small. Obs. rare. 

†2.2 Of imposts, etc.: Lesser; esp. in minute tithes = ‘small tithes’. Obs. 

3.3 Very small in size, extent, amount, or degree.

   In the 17th and 18th centuries the comparative minuter frequently acquires the sense ‘smaller or more insignificant than another’, without the implication of extreme smallness. 

4.4 Of very little consequence or importance; trifling, petty.

   Minute philosopher is an echo of Cicero's quidam minuti philosophi (De Senect. xxiii, also De Div. i. xxx), where the adj. appears to have this sense, though in Eng. use it is sometimes apprehended as if belonging to sense 5. 

5.5 Of investigations, regulations, records, etc. (and hence of persons): Characterized by attention to very small matters or details; very precise or particular; very accurate.

minute, n.1 (ˈmɪnɪt) 

I.I A sixtieth (or other definite part) of a unit. 

1. a.I.1.a The sixtieth part of an hour (divided into sixty seconds). In earlier use frequently †minute of an hour, †minute while. Also, one of the lines upon a dial which mark the minute spaces.

   The minutum of early mediæval writers, which was one-tenth of an hour, has no historical connexion with this. For the system of time-reckoning to which it belongs, see atom n. 7. 

b.I.1.b Vaguely used for: A short space of time; also, a point of time, an instant, moment. Also in phr. up to the minute, completely modern. 

c.I.1.c A particular instant of time; also occas. the appointed or fitting moment. the minute (that)‥: as soon as. 

d.I.1.d A distance expressed in the number of minutes needed for it to be traversed (on foot, etc.). 

2.I.2 Geom. (Astr., Geog., etc.) The sixtieth part of a degree. †minute of a minute: the sixtieth of a minute, a second.

   The sign for minutes is ′, thus 5° 8′ = five degrees eight minutes. 

3. a.I.3.a Arch. The sixtieth or occas. some other part of the module. ? Obs. 

b.I.3.b Art. A unit of a scale of head measurement by which the proportions of the face may be regulated or defined; the forty-eighth part of the height of the human head. [So F. minute.] 

II.II Something small. 

†4.II.4 A coin of trifling value; a ‘mite’. Obs. 

†5.II.5 Something minute or small. a.II.5.a pl. Little fishes, ‘small fry’ (cf. menise). b.II.5.b A small particular, a detail; a minutia. c.II.5.c Something of small size or slight importance. Obs. 

III. 6.III.6 a.III.6.a A rough draft (of something to be further elaborated); a note or memorandum for the direction of an agent or servant, or for preserving the memory of current transactions or events; a brief summary of events or transactions, esp. (usually pl.) the record of the proceedings at a meeting of an assembly, corporate body, society, company, committee, or the like. †in minute: in the form of a minute or minutes. minute of dissent, a minute recording a person's disagreement with something. 

b.III.6.b An official memorandum authorizing or recommending the pursuance of a certain course. treasury minute: a minute or memorandum issued by the treasury. 

†c.III.6.c An agreement, precise understanding. Obs. 

d.III.6.d Sc. Law. A memorandum of intention presented to the court by a party to a suit. 

IV. 7.IV.7 attrib. and Comb., as minute bell, the tolling of a bell at intervals of a minute, used as a sign of mourning or distress; minute-book, †(a) a ‘book of short hints’ (J.); (b) a book containing systematic records of the transactions of a society, court, or the like; minute clock, a stop clock used in making tests of gas (Knight Dict. Mech. 1884); minute-flourish, a fanfare of trumpets sounded minute by minute; minute-glass, a sand-glass that runs for a minute; minute-gun, the firing of a gun at intervals of a minute, used as a sign of mourning or distress (also attrib.); minute-hand, the long hand of a time-piece which indicates the minutes; †minute-jack (? cf. jack n.1 6), one who changes his mind every moment, a fickle or changeable person; minute jumper, an electric clock in which the hands move only at the end of each minute, the minute-hand moving over a whole minute at each step (Cent. Dict. 1890); †minute-line Naut., a log-line; minute-lust, momentary desire; minute mile (see quot. 1867); †minute-motion, the mechanism of the seconds hand of a watch; minute-repeater, a watch which ‘repeats’ the minutes; minute space, the duration of a minute; minute steak (see quot. 1934); minute stroke, the measured ‘minutely’ stroke of an oar; minute tide, (a) = minute while (see sense 1); (b) (see quot. 1865); minute-to-minute attrib., from one minute to the next; †minute-watch, a watch that distinguishes minutes of time or on the dial of which minutes are marked (also †minute pendulum watch); minute-wheel, the wheel that moves the minute-hand of a clock or watch; hence minute-wheel nut, pinion (see quot. 1884); †minute while (see sense 1); minute-writing, the art or practice of recording minutes or administrative memoranda. Also minuteman.  

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