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This article deals with the general meaning of the term "synonym". For biological synonyms, see Synonym (taxonomy).

Synonyms are different words with identical or very similar meanings. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy. The word comes from Ancient Greek syn (σύν) ("with") and onoma (ὄνομα) ("name"). The words car and automobile are synonyms. Similarly, if we talk about a long time or an extended time, long and extended become synonyms. In the figurative sense, two words are often said to be synonymous if they have the same connotation:

"a widespread impression that … Hollywood was synonymous with immorality" (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

Synonyms can be any part of speech (e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or prepositions), as long as both members of the pair are the same part of speech. More examples of English synonyms are:

  • student and pupil (noun)
  • petty crime and misdemeanor (noun)
  • buy and purchase (verb)
  • sick and ill (adjective)
  • quickly and speedily (adverb)
  • on and upon (preposition)

Note that synonyms are defined with respect to certain senses of words; for instance, pupil as the "aperture in the iris of the eye" is not synonymous with student. Similarly, he expired means the same as he died, yet my passport has expired cannot be replaced by my passport has died.

In English, many synonyms evolved from the parallel use, in the early medieval period, of Norman French (from Latin) and Old English (Anglo-Saxon) words, often with some words being used principally by the Saxon peasantry ("folk", "freedom", "bowman") and their synonyms by the Norman nobility ("people", "liberty", "archer").

Some lexicographers claim that no synonyms have exactly the same meaning (in all contexts or social levels of language) because etymology, orthography, phonic qualities, ambiguous meanings, usage, etc. make them unique. Different words that are similar in meaning usually differ for a reason: feline is more formal than cat; long and extended are only synonyms in one usage and not in others (for example, a long arm is not the same as an extended arm). Synonyms are also a source of euphemisms.

The purpose of a thesaurus is to offer the user a listing of similar or related words; these are often, but not always, synonyms.

Related terms

Antonyms are words with opposite or nearly opposite meanings. For example:

  • short and tall
  • dead and alive
  • increase and decrease
  • add and subtract

The words synonym and antonym are themselves antonyms.

Hypernyms and hyponyms are words that refer to, respectively, a general category and a specific instance of that category. For example, vehicle is a hypernym of car, and car is a hyponym of vehicle.

Homonyms are words that sound or are spelled the same, but have different meanings.

See also

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also synonym

Contents

German

Pronunciation

Noun

Synonym n. (genitive Synonyms or Synonymes, plural Synonyme or Synonyma)

  1. synonym

Synonyms

  • Bedeutungsgleichheit, Bedeutungsähnlichkeit, Sinnverwandtschaft, Verwendungsgleichheit, Verwendungsähnlichkeit

Related terms


Simple English

A syn-onym is a word that has the same (or almost the same) meaning as another word.


Examples:

  • car and automobile
  • baby and infant
  • child and kid
  • student and pupil
  • sick and ill


Synonyms can be nouns, verbs, adverbs or adjectives, but both words must be of the same part of speech. That means, only a noun can be a synonym of another noun, only a verb can be a synonym of another verb, and so on.

One can find sets of synonyms in a thesaurus.

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