Fur or Fir - Homophones

Pronunciation | Confusables | IPA Symbols | Speaking


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The two words fur and fir are homophones in English and cause a lot of pronunciation confusion for students. I mean, how can two words that are radically different have exactly the same sound? There are many homophones in English and this lesson is designed to help you master these two. Not only does it deal with the words fir and fur, but it also deals with words like furred, furry, furlike, furl, furlong, furlough, furnace, furniture, furore, further, fury, fire, firkin, firm, first, fifth, and firth. This lesson will help you to pronounce all of these words perfectly.

From The OED on CD-ROM

fur, n.1 (fɜː(r)) 

Forms: 4–7 furre, 7–9 furr, 8 fir, 6– fur. 

[f. fur v. 

   The OF. forre, fuerre, sheath, case, is commonly given as the immediate source; but it does not appear to have had the sense of the Eng. n., though the derived vb. forrer (mod.F. fourrer), originally to encase, developed the sense ‘to line’, and ‘to line or trim with fur.’ The Fr. word for fur is fourrure (OF. forrure): see furrure.] 

I. 1.I.1 a.I.1.a A trimming or lining for a garment, made of the dressed coat of certain animals (as the ermine, beaver, etc.: see 2); hence, the coat of such animals as a material for trimmings, linings, or entire garments (worn either for warmth or for ornament). Also a garment made of, or trimmed or lined with, this material; now chiefly pl., exc. as denoting a piece of fur to be worn about the neck. 

b.I.1.b worn as a mark of office or state, and as a badge of certain degrees at the Universities. 

2. a.I.2.a The short, fine, soft hair of certain animals (as the sable, ermine, beaver, otter, bear, etc.) growing thick upon the skin, and distinguished from the ordinary hair, which is longer and coarser. Formerly also, †the wool of sheep. 

b.I.2.b fig. in phr. to stroke the fur the wrong way (i.e. to cause irritation); to make the fur fly (orig. U.S. slang: see quot. 1848); also the fur flies, etc. 

3.I.3 pl. Skins of such animals with the fur on them. 

4.I.4 Her. A tincture representing tufts upon a plain ground, or patches of different colours supposed to be sewn together.

   The eight principal furs are ermine, ermines, erminois, pean, vair, countervair, potent, and counterpotent. 

5.I.5 collect. Furred animals. Also in phrase fur and feather. See feather n. 4. 

6. a.I.6.a Applied to something resembling fur or adhering to a surface like fur; e.g. a coat or crust of mould, of deposit from wine, etc. 

b.I.6.b esp. A coating formed on the tongue in certain diseased conditions of the body. 

c.I.6.c A coating or crust formed by the deposit of carbonate of lime on the interior surface of a kettle, boiler, etc. 

7.I.7 Carpentry. (See quot.) Cf. furring vbl. n. 3 b, fur v. 6. 

II.II attrib. and Comb. 

8.II.8 attrib. or as adj. Made of fur. 

9.II.9 General comb., as fur company, fur-farm, fur-farmer, fur-farming, fur-hunting, fur-sewer, fur trade, fur-trader, fur-trading; objective, as fur-dressing vbl. n.; instrumental, as fur-bordered, fur-bound, fur-clad, fur-lined, fur-muffled, fur-topped, fur-trimmed, fur-wrapped, fur-wrought ppl. adjs.; parasynthetic, as fur-capped, fur-collared, fur-cuffed, fur-gowned ppl. adjs. 

10.II.10 Special comb.: fur-bearer, an animal that yields a fur of (commercial) value; so fur-bearing adj.; fur-cloth, -fabric (see quot. 1928); fur felt, a felt fabric, deeply napped to give a fur-like effect; fur-fever, -moth (see quots.); †fur-man slang (see quot.); fur-puller (see quot.); so fur-pulling vbl. n.; fur seal, the seal which affords the valuable fur known as seal-skin. 

fir (fɜː(r)) 

Forms: 3–8 firr, 4 fer, south. ve(e)r, 4–5 fyr(re, south. vyrre, 4–7 firre, (6 fire, 7 fyre), 7 fur, 4– fir. 

[ME. firr. firre, perh. repr. OE. *fyre or ON. fyri- (in combs. fyriskógr fir-wood, etc.; cf. Da. fyr):—OTeut. *furhjôn- f. *furhâ, forhâ, whence OE. furh(wudu), OHG. forha (MHG. vorhe, Ger. föhre), ON., Norw., Sw. fura. For the formation cf. beech, OE. béce:—*bôkjôn f. bôkâ (Ger. buche). 

   A form differing in ablaut-grade is OHG. vereh-eih (rare early mod.Ger. ferch), Lombard fereha, all denoting a kind of oak (L. æsculus). The L. quercus oak is doubtless cognate.] 

1.1 The name given to a number of coniferous trees, of different genera. Scotch fir (Pinus sylvestris), a native of Arctic Europe and Asia; perhaps indigenous in a few spots of northern Britain; called also Scotch Pine. silver fir (Abies pectinata), a native of the mountainous parts of middle and southern Europe; so called from its whiteness under the leaves. silver fir of Canada (Abies balsamea), a small tree which furnishes ‘Canada balsam.’ spruce fir (Picea excelsa), a native of northern and mountainous central Europe; called also Norway Spruce.

   (The first quot. is doubtful: the word may be far.) 

2. a.2.a The wood of any of these trees. fir-in-bond, ‘a name given to lintels, bond-timbers, wall-plates, and indeed all timbers built in walls’ (1846 Buchanan Technol. Dict.). 

b.2.b Sc. = candle-fir: see candle n. 7. 

3.3 attrib. and Comb. a.3.a simple attrib.: (sense 1), as fir-bark, fir-clump, fir-cone (hence fir-coning, nonce-wd.), fir-green, fir-plantation, fir-seed, fir-top, fir-wood; (sense 2), as fir-lathing, fir-plank, fir-pole, fir-timber; b.3.b instrumental or parasynthetic, as fir-bordered, fir-built, fir-scented, fir-topped adjs. 

4.4 Special comb.: as fir-apple, -ball, the fruit of the fir-tree; a fir-cone; fir balsam, the silver fir of Canada, Abies balsamea; †fir-beech, the lime or linden tree (L. tilia); fir-bob = fir-apple; fir-brush (see quot.); fir-candle = fir 2 b; fir-cedar (see quot.); fir club-moss = fir-moss; fir-deal, a deal or plank of fir; also, fir-wood cut in planks; fir-marigold (see quot.); fir-moss (see quot.); fir-needle (see quot.); fir-pine = 1; fir-rape, a parasitic plant on roots of fir and beech (Hypopithys multiflora); fir-spell dial. = fir 2 b (in quot. referring to fir-roots so used). Also fir-tree. 

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