Haw - hoar - whore

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Haw, hoar and whore 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.

Don't confuse haw, hoar and whore, which sound identical in rhotic accents, and very similar in non-rhotic accents. They have the vowel-sound of 'awe' and 'door' - IPA: /ɔ:/.

  • The noun a haw names a red berry fruit produced by the hawthorn. The name has been transferred to some other spcies of shrub and tree.
    • In equestrian circles, a haw is also "the nictitating membrane or ‘third eyelid’ of a horse, dog, etc., being a triangular cartilage lying just within the inner corner of the eye, which is capable of expansion, so as to sweep dust, etc. from the eyeball" (OED, 1898).
    • In Old English, a haw was also a fence, or hedge, or the land which it enclosed: a yard or enclosure.
  • Haw is also a representation in writing of a peculiar drawling tone of voice associated with the aristocracy, often written in the reduplicated form haw-haw: "An expression of hesitation uttered repeatedly in an affected tone" (OED, 1898). This led to the nickname given to William Joyce (1906-1946), a member of the British Union of Fascists who fled to Germany in August 1939, where he broadcast propaganda in English throughout the war. Although he was born an American, he was tried for treason in London in 1945 and hanged in 1946.
  • There is a verb, usually paired with 'hum' or 'hem', meaning 'to hesitate': "he hummed and hawed before coming to the point and accusing his opponent of collusion."
  • Hoar (sometimes in the past written 'hore', which is now regarded as an error) is essentially an adjective. Its original meaning in Old English (and Common Germanic) was 'old', and particularly 'grey-haired with age'. By a natural extension, it came to mean the colour grey or greyish-white. Hence it was used of the frost that makes things white: hoar-frost, "[t]he white deposit formed by the freezing of dew, frozen dew, white frost' (OED, 1898). The adjective hoary can mean:
    • white, or whitish-gray;
    • 'old'
    • 'old-fashioned', 'out of date'
  • Hoare and Hoar can also be a surname. Notable bearers of the name include:
    • Sir Richard Hoare (1648–1719), who founded the oldest bank in Britain, C. Hoare & Co, "private bankers since 1672", still owned and managed by his descendants.
    • Sir Samuel Hoare (after 1944 1st Viscount Templewood) (1880-1959), Foreign Secretary in 1935, when the public reaction to the proposed Hoare-Laval Pact on Mussolini's invasion of Abysinia led to his resignation, and holder of many other government posts.
    • The (much rarer) surname Hore was borne, similarly, by a pre-war British politician, Leslie Hore-Belisha (1893-1957), later Baron Hore-Belisha. He became Minister for Transport in 1934 and oversaw the introduction of pedestrian ('zebra') crossings; the illuminated amber globes that mark them are still known as Belisha Beacons.
  • For a note on whore, go to whore.(Note that it is sometimes clipped to ho ('ho or ho') in colloquial speech, especially in American Black Vernacular English, where it can mean simply 'woman', sometimes possessively as in "She my main 'ho" and "He got married to his ho'".