A homonym is not a shared name

A recent question in the daily quiz in The Times annoyed me. Question: Which of the three orders in classical Greek architecture shares its name with a type of chemical bond?

Purported answer: ionic

This annoyed me because ionic (a chemical bond, an adjective derived from the noun ion) and ionic (a classical Greek architectural order, an adjective derived from the place name Ionia) are clearly not the same name. They are homonyms: two different words that happen to share the same pronunciation.

In writing this post, I’ve come to realise that, arguably, neither of these words is even a name at all. They are both adjectives but a name is a noun. Both of these adjectives are only part of something that is a name (ionic bond, order, ionic order), though I suppose either of them could be used as shorthand for the full name.

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