Alms - arms

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Alms and arms form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.. The homophones are pronounced in RP as IPA: /ɑːmz/.

  • Alms is a common noun, of plural form but with an uncountable meaning: 'charitable gifts', 'support given to the needy out of philanthropic instinct'.
  • Arms has two meanings that may have influenced each other although they are only distantly related etymologically:
    • It is the plural of the common noun arm, the usual word for the human fore- (or upper) limb, of which the usual number is two.
    • Arms, which in this sense is nearly always used in the plural, means 'weapons', mostly offensive, although the verb 'to arm' more commonly implies putting on defensive equipment - armour.
      • The singular form of arm in this sense is nowadays mostly used to mean 'a branch of the armed services' - as in "engineers may be attached to the artillery arm" and "Indian Navy’s submarine arm seems set for an uptick" ([MailOnline India]
      • The armoured arm of a modern army consists of fighting vehicles such as tanks
For a similar confusion of homophones, see arm.