wraith, rathe

The words wraith, rathe sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Why do wraith, rathe sound the same even though they are completely different words?

The answer is simple: wraith, rathe are homophones of the English language.

rathe
  1. :: adjective

    Archaic Appearing or ripening early in the year, as flowers or fruit.

wraith
  1. :: noun

    The ghost of a dead person.

  2. :: noun

    An apparition of a living person that appears as a portent just before that person's death.

  3. :: noun

    Something shadowy and insubstantial.

Definitions from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition and Wordnik.

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About Homophones

Homophones (literally "same sound") are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled.

If they are spelled the same then they are also homographs (and homonyms); if they are spelled differently then they are also heterographs (literally "different writing").