There are a large number of homophones in Japanese, due to the use of Sino-Japanese vocabulary, where borrowed words and morphemes from Chinese are widely used in Japanese, but many sound differences, such as tones, are lost. These are to some extent disambiguated via Japanese pitch accent, or from context, but many of these words are primarily or almost exclusively used in writing, where they are easily distinguished as they are written with different kanji; others are used for puns, which are frequent in Japanese. An extreme example is kikō, which is the pronunciation of at least 22 words (some quite rare or specialized, others common; all these examples are two-character compounds), including: 機構 (organization/mechanism), 紀行 (travelogue), 稀覯 (rare), 騎行 (horseback riding), 貴校 ((school (respectful)), 奇功 (outstanding achievement), 貴公 (word for "you" used by men addressing male equals or inferiors), 起稿 (draft), 奇行 (eccentricity), 機巧 (contrivance), 寄港 (stopping at port), 帰校 (returning to school), 気功 (breathing exercise/qigong), 寄稿 (contribute an article/written piece), 機甲 (armor, e. g. of a tank), 帰航 (homeward voyage), 奇効 (remarkable effect), 季候 (season/climate), 気孔 (stoma), 起工 (setting to work), 気候 (climate), 帰港 (returning to port).
Homophones are often used to create puns and to deceive the reader (as in crossword puzzles ) or to suggest multiple meanings. The last usage is common in poetry and creative literature . An example of this is seen in Dylan Thomas 's radio play Under Milk Wood : "The shops in mourning" where mourning can be heard as mourning or morning . Another vivid example is Thomas Hood 's use of "birth" and "berth" and "told" and "toll'd" (tolled) in his poem "Faithless Sally Brown":