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The two groups of words written diet 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.

There are two words, both with the same spelling 'diet' and the same pronunciation DIE-ert, IPA: /'daɪ ət/, i.e., the words are not only homographs but homophones, which makes them homonyms.

  • As a common noun, 'diet' is used in two different ways. It may mean:
    • the kinds of food which are regularly eaten by a person or an animal - e.g., 'In the wilderness John the Baptist lived on a diet of locusts and wild honey' (see Matthew ch. 3, v. 4), 'Many Britons have an unhealthy diet', 'Most domestic cats are content with a diet of fish and milk'.
    • The word 'diet' is also used to mean: the kinds of food which an individual ought, or has been advised, to eat on medical or other grounds. A diet in this sense may place a limit on the amount of food to be eaten (e.g., when the purpose of the diet is to enable a person to lose weight); or it may prohibit a person from eating certain types of food (as when coeliacs are put on a gluten-free diet because of their sensitivity to the protein gliadin contained in the gluten of cereals); or it may require a person to eat certain types of food (e.g., when the purpose of the diet is to build up his or her strength after a debilitating illness or in preparation for an athletic contest).
      • The word 'diet' in this sense forms part of many expressions: e.g. 'to go on a diet', 'to be put on a diet', 'to follow a diet', 'to keep to a diet'. There is also a verb 'to diet', meaning to 'to be on a diet', and two adjectives 'dietary' and 'dietetic'.
Etymological note: This word 'diet' comes, through Old French and Latin, from the Greek word δίαιτα (diaita, 'way of life or lifestyle'), which was used to mean 'regimen or prescribed way of life' by medical writers such as Hippocrates (?460-?377 BCE) and Galen (131-201 CE) and was often used by them to refer specifically to the types of food a patient should (or should not) eat.
  • As a proper noun 'Diet' means 'a legislative or deliberative assembly or parliament', and is used, always with an initial capital letter, in the English translation of the titles of the parliaments of certain states past and present.
    • In a historical context the word is used, for example, of the general assemblies of the Holy Roman Empire, i.e., the gatherings of the bishops, princes, and other dignitaries, who met from time to time, at the command of the emperor, in different cities of the Empire (e.g., Augsburg, Cologne, Aachen, Dortmund, Mainz) but after 1663 always in Regensburg, where the Imperial Diet (in Latin Dieta imperii) acquired a permanent seat.
      • (Perhaps the best known of these Diets is the Diet of Worms (i.e., the Diet held in 1521 in the German city of Worms [pronounced Vorms, IPA: /vɔrms/]), which ordered the arrest of Martin Luther as a dangerous heretic and banned the reading or possession of his writings.) For many years, the pun potential of the name has amused schoolchildren who are less than fascinated by history.
      • In a contemporary context the word Diet is used of the Japanese legislature, i.e., the National Diet of Japan, which consists of a House of Representatives and a House of Councillors and was established in its present form in 1947, when it replaced the Japanese Imperial Diet.
Etymological note: Perhaps surprisingly, this second word 'diet' also comes from the Greek word δίαιτα (diaita), which, as well as meaning 'way of life or lifestyle.', sometimes means 'arbitration'. There is a related verb διαιτᾶν (diaitan), meaning 'to arbitrate, investigate, or decide', and the participial phrase οἱ διαιτᾶντες‚ (hoi diaitāntes), meaning 'the arbitrators'. However, this etymology is complicated by the fact that the Latin word dieta, which comes from δίαιτα (diaita) and is the immediate ancestor of the English 'diet', was thought in the Middle Ages to be related to the Latin dies (day) and sometimes meant, e.g., 'a day's work'. (This association between 'diet' and the Latin dies is especially clear in the use of the word 'diet' in Scots law to mean 'the date fixed by a court for a hearing' or 'a session of the court'.)

Be careful in giving, or not giving, the word 'diet' an initial capital letter: mistakes can result in such absurdities as 'Martin Luther was troubled by the diet of worms' and 'The Japanese national diet consists of two houses'.