Tire - tyre
Tire, tyre and the less common tier 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. Both tire and tyre are pronounced to rhyme with 'fire': IPA: /ˈtaɪr/, or in more marked RP ˈtaɪ ər - sometimes even /tɑː/. Confusion can arise.
- The common noun 'a tyre' or tire, meaning 'a rim round the circumference of a wheel' (originally of iron to protect the wooden rim, now usually a tube of rubber filled with air) is spelled with '-y-' representing the vowel sound in Britain, especially when denoting the pneumatic tyres now universal in modern vehicles. In American English, it is usually spelled tire, with '-i-' representing the same vowel sound.
- OED lists six other nouns written tire (in the past, often spelled tyre), of which most are obsolete: 'a volley or broadside (of co-ordinated gunfire)'; "[a] tough morsel given to a hawk"; a colloquial term for 'fatigue' (usually in the plural, 'the tires'); a cord in weaving ribbons; and "the finest fibre of flax or hemp".
- One meaning that may be more helpful to users of AWE is '[an item of] clothing'. It is an aphetic derivative of attire, the dress, costume, apparel or 'get-up'. See the related verb (the second) below.
- There are several verbs 'to tire', of which two are likely to be current among users of AWE. (The others include 'to pull', 'to draw [a cart, etc]'; as well as a rare one meaning 'to fit [e.g. a wheel] with a tyre'. From the eighteenth century, none of these are regularly spelled '
- By far the more common of the two current verbs is 'to fatigue', 'to exhaust'. (Its earliest context was in the fields of supplies or reseves where it meant 'to give out', 'to cease or diminish'; 'to come to the end of [one's reserves]'. Hence a person can come to the end of their strength or stamina and so on.)
- The less common verb 'to tire', like the noun above, is an aphetic form of attire. As with the verb 'to dress', it began by meaning 'to put in order', and then 'to equip', and later 'to clothe'.
- In Shakespeare's time, the tiring house in a theatre was what is now called a 'dressing room' or 'green room'. It is mentioned in A Midsummer Night's Dream III i 3, where Bottom, planning the play with which the "rude mechanicals" plan to entertain the nobility, says "This green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn-brake our tiring-house; and we will do it in action as we will do it before the duke"
- The proper noun Tyre is the name of a city on the coast of southern Lebanon. It is mentioned in the Bible, often in association with Sidon. Follow the link Tyre and Sidon to learn something of the history.
- The agent noun tier is quite rare. It means 'someone who ties'. It should not be confused with its homograph pronounced to rhyme with 'here' and 'beer' - see tier (homographs).