It’s easy to guess the first question that comes to mind — what is a synonym?
According to Lexicographer Kory Stamper, English has borrowed words from other languages since infancy. Whether it’s French, Greek, or Latin, loanwords account for 80 percent of English dictionary entries.
Of course, such extensive borrowing comes with unavoidable consequences.
It means we will have duplicates — words that sound alike and words that have the same meaning or pronunciation. As a result, the English language has several homophones, homonyms, and synonyms.
That brings us back to the initial question:
What is a Synonym?
A synonym refers to a word or phrase with the same or nearly the same meaning as another word in a specific context. For example, the words pretty, good-looking, handsome, and attractive have similar meanings in English. They are synonymous!
So how do you identify a synonym?
According to grammar experts, substitution is the standard way to identify or test a synonym. It involves checking if a word or phrase can replace another in a sentence without changing its meaning.
In other words, we use synonyms based on the specific context. Consider the sentences below:
- The older man expired at midnight.
- Molly’s passport expired last month.
The word expired refers to the older man’s death in the first sentence. Yet, you can’t describe a passport as dead. In other words, the words expire, and dead are not synonymous in all contexts.
So what are the types of synonyms?
Types of Synonyms in the English Language
Synonyms can either be formal or informal based on the context. There are also near-synonyms, words that have almost the same meaning.
Formal synonyms are ideal when you’re writing a business or academic paper. It’s also best to use such standard language for speeches and other professional purposes.
For example, some formal synonyms for money are cash, funds, capital, finances, currency, and banknotes.
Unlike formal synonyms, informal synonyms occur in a less traditional context. They are often present more in speech than writing and are usually restricted to a specific context or group of people.
For example, some informal synonyms for money are bread or dough.
Near-synonyms have similar meanings to other terms in some contexts but not in others. In other words, the words are not perfectly identical.
For example, angry and irritable are near-synonyms.
As you may have guessed, near-synonyms are more common than exact synonyms. Indeed, a thesaurus often consists of a simple list of synonyms and near-synonyms.
So why do we use words with similar meaning in writing?
Uses of Synonyms in Writing
Writers use synonyms for elegant variation, to express nuances, and for specific technical purposes.
Using Synonyms for Elegant Variation
An elegant variation involves substituting one word for another for variety. With that, you can avoid repeating the same word in close proximity. Consider the sentence below:
- Dr. Brown seriously maintains that soon, opium smoking will be as serious as the absinthe scourge in France.
According to lexicographer H.W. Fowler, replacing serious with grave would improve the sentence significantly. That’s because seriously and serious don’t relate to the same thing in this context.
Using Synonyms to Express Nuances
You can use synonyms to express subtle or shades of meaning in expressions. This is a clever way to make your writing more engaging — by using more lively words. Consider the example below:
- Harry’s hair was dark.
- Harry’s hair was inky.
The second sentence offers a more vivid description of Harry’s hair. It makes your writing more intriguing.
Examples of Synonyms
There are many English synonyms, and each has a unique meaning and use. Here are some to note:
- Cause — source, root, origin, genesis, base, and foundation
- Beautiful — attractive, pretty, handsome, pleasing, and alluring
- Encourage — hearten, cheer, uplift, inspire, motivate, and stir
- Help — assist, aid, help out, be of service to, and benefit
- Like — such as, for example, for instance, and in particular
- New — latest, current, contemporary, advanced, and up to date
- Work — labor, toil, exertion, effort, slog, struggle, and service
- Want — desire, fancy, take a fancy to, like, wish for, and hope for
- Time — rhythm, tempo, pulse, beat, flow, and cadence
- Learn — grasp, master, take in, absorb, assimilate, and digest
It’s worth noting that antonyms are the opposite of synonyms. An antonym is a word that means the opposite of another word. For example, the opposite of on time is to be late.
To Wrap Up: Using Synonyms to Improve Your Vocabulary
When you’re stuck for words, a synonym is a viable alternative. As a writer, you can use synonyms to add finesse and nuance to your writing. Learning about synonyms is also an incredible way to improve at using words for your stories. It can help your writing soar to higher levels.
Explore All Synonyms Articles
‘Struggle’ is the act of contention, generally with difficulty and against the opposition, to do or achieve something. To create…
Learning new words is essential for everyone. This will make you a more effective writer and a better speaker. That’s…
Learning the synonyms of a word will benefit your vocabulary knowledge. The English language has a lot of exciting things…
Have you been looking for a synonym for the word SHARE and found yourself annoyed by using the same word…
Many words carry a similar definition to the term result. Words like this are referred to as a result synonym.…
Utilizing represent in your articles can be difficult if you don’t fully understand its meaning. And if you don’t know…
Realize can have many applications and can be a versatile tool in writing your articles. For instance, it can easily…
Promote is a popular English word nowadays. It’s the advanced age of digital marketing, and you can see promotions everywhere.…
Many things in our surroundings are a product of a certain process or action. Product is a common word and…