Sow, sew, or sough?

Words that look the same, or which might sound the same but have different spelling or meanings can be confusing, so how do we handle words like sow, sew and sough?

In this case, sow can have different meanings and different pronunciations, though it’s spelt the same way. As a noun, a sow is a female pig and is pronounced to rhyme with words such as now, how, and cow. If used as a verb, it means to plant seeds in the ground, and it’s pronounced to rhyme with words such as hoe, grow, and low.



The pig farmer separated the sow from her piglets.

The farmer went out to sow the seeds in the field.


Sew means to stitch a garment or fabric, and is pronounced to rhyme with words such as hoe, grow, and low.



With the price of store-bought clothing so low, people seldom sew clothes at home anymore.


Sough can be used as a noun or as an intransitive verb. The noun means a rustling sound, and the verb means to rustle. The pronunciation is a bit troublesome, though. As far as I’m aware, both are pronounced to rhyme with how, now, and cow, but I have heard the word pronounced to rhyme with hoe, grow, and low, and also to rhyme with words like enough. Any opinions on the correct pronunciation are most welcome!

tree 2


In the early morning at the top of the hill you can the sea breeze sough (verb) through the trees.

The gentle sough (noun) of the wind through the trees reminds me of the murmur of water over pebbles.


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2 Responses to Sow, sew, or sough?

  1. Never knew about ‘sough’. It will be my new word for the day. Thanks.

  2. Way back in the early days of my working life, I was posted to Cloncurry as Office Engineer for an American company on the Mt Isa Rail reconstruction project. I lived in a plywood hut but had a living away from home allowance of 32 and 6 a day, so I had breakfast and dinner at the finest hotel in town, the Post Office Hotel. There I met many wonderful people including Bid O’Sullivan who founded School of the Air. One of her stories was about teaching English and some of the difficulties – pronouncing another, bough, cough, dough, enough, sough, though – thought there were more. Thanks for reminding me.

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