copied shamelessly from The Boston Globe, Wednesday, September 24, 1997, from the Ask the Globe section.
Q. All of us are familiar with the terms synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. However, there are words in the English languate that have the same spelling, but are pronounced differently and have different meangs, e.g., bow (part of a boat, or a decorative knot), minute (60 seconds, or exceptionally small). What are these words called? Are they unique to the English language?

A.M., Brockton

A. The terms homograph, homophone, and homonym can be confusing. Sometimes the term homonym is used to designate a homograph or homophone. Laurence Urdang in "The Dictonary of Confusable Words" offers these definitions. Words that are spelled alike but are different in meaning or pronounciation are called homographs. For instance, stake (a stick, or a wager) differs only in meaning. Subject (the noun, the verb) differs only in pronounciation. Homophones are words that sound alike but are different in meaning or spelilng, for instance, too and two, beat and beet, stake and steak. Homonyms are not unique to the English languate. In Chinese, for exapmple, there is zi (seed) and zi (son); Xiaoping (the late leader) and xaioping (little bottle).

Well, I think that the chinese examples aren't so good, because there are so many ways to prounounce the same sylable, and it means different things. besides, the chinese don't really spell things as such, being a pictographic language. Also, seed and son are rather related, much more so than lead (the verb, to show someone the way, and the noun, the metal) or set (thousands of meanings), or bow (see above)

Still pretty cool, though.

Here's another folk's related page.