AskDefine | Define synonym

Dictionary Definition

synonym n : two words that can be interchanged in a context are said to be synonymous relative to that context [syn: equivalent word]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Synonym



From synonymum < συνώνυμον, neuter singular form of συνώνυμος < σύν + ὄνομα.


  • /ˈsɪnənɪm/


  1. A word or phrase that has a meaning the same as, or very close to, that of another word or phrase.
    Happy is a synonym of glad.
  2. In zoological nomenclature, any of the formal names applying to a particular taxon, including the correct name (the valid name), which will be the senior synonym.
  3. In botanical nomenclature, any of the other names also applying to a particular taxon.


Related terms


word with same meaning as another
  • Catalan: sinònim
  • Croatian: sinonim
  • Czech: synonymum
  • Danish: synonym
  • Dutch: synoniem
  • Esperanto: sinonimo
  • Finnish: synonyymi
  • French: synonyme
  • German: Synonym
  • Greek: συνώνυμο (synónymo)
  • Hungarian: szinonima
  • Icelandic: samheiti
  • Italian: sinonimo
  • Japanese: (, dōgi-go; same), (, ruigi-go; similar)
  • Polish: synonim
  • Romanian: sinonim
  • Serbian: poveznica
  • Slovene: sopomenka, sinonim
  • Spanish: sinónimo
in zoological nomenclature
in botanical nomenclature



synonym (med)
  1. synonymous (with)





  1. synonymous



  1. synonymous


  1. synonym

Extensive Definition

This article deals with the general meaning of the term "synonym". For biological synonyms, see Synonym (taxonomy).
Synonyms are different words with identical or at least 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") "with" and ("onomathe words car and automobile. 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:
  • baby and infant (noun)
  • petty crime and misdemeanor (noun)
  • student and pupil (noun)
  • buy and purchase (verb)
  • pretty and attractive (adjective)
  • sick and ill (adjective)
  • quickly and speedily (adverb)
  • on and upon (preposition)
  • freedom and liberty (noun)
  • dead and deceased (adjective)
Note that the 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, expired as "having lost validity" (as in grocery goods) doesn't necessarily mean death.
In English many synonyms evolved from a mixture of Norman French and English words, often with some words associated with the Saxon countryside ("folk", "freedom") and synonyms with the Norman nobility ("people", "liberty").
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. However, many people feel that the synonyms they use are identical in meaning for all practical purposes, and are interchangeable. 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, such as a long arm and 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.

"...there is no such thing as a true synonym."

The use of a human natural language is a matter of agreement between people and names of things (words) are arbitrarily given to objects. Such names are meant to identify things, etc. and are therefore unique identifiers at the start, though may be longer than a single word. Hence you need disambiguation in defining the meaning of wikipedia entry words too. So what you have is a list of words that may replace each other subject to various contextual circumstances.
"Those who work with language know that there is no such thing as a true synonym.Even though the meanings of two words may be the same - or nearly so - there are three characteristics of words that almost never coincide: frequency, distribution and connotation."1
This is well reflected in various new English dictionaries where you find frequency data next to a dictionary entry, etc.
One of the major achievements in lexicography belongs to a Hungarian translator Tibor Bartos, who compiled his Magyar szótár by claiming the very same idea as above.

Related terms

Antonyms are words with opposite or nearly opposite meanings. For example:
  • short and tall
  • dead and alive
  • near and far
  • war and peace
  • increase and decrease
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.

External links

synonym in Afrikaans: Sinoniem
synonym in Bavarian: Synonym
synonym in Bulgarian: Синоним
synonym in Catalan: Sinònim
synonym in Chuvash: Синонимсем
synonym in Czech: Synonymum
synonym in Welsh: Cyfystyr
synonym in Danish: Synonym
synonym in German: Synonymie
synonym in Estonian: Sünonüüm
synonym in Spanish: Sinónimo
synonym in Esperanto: Sinonimo
synonym in Basque: Sinonimo
synonym in Faroese: Samheiti
synonym in French: Synonymie
synonym in Galician: Sinonimia
synonym in Korean: 동의어
synonym in Croatian: Sinonim
synonym in Ido: Sinonimo
synonym in Indonesian: Sinonim
synonym in Icelandic: Samheiti
synonym in Italian: Sinonimia
synonym in Hebrew: מילה נרדפת
synonym in Georgian: სინონიმი
synonym in Latvian: Sinonīms
synonym in Luxembourgish: Synonymie
synonym in Lithuanian: Sinonimas
synonym in Hungarian: Szinonímia
synonym in Macedonian: Синоним
synonym in Dutch: Synoniem (taalkunde)
synonym in Japanese: 類義語
synonym in Norwegian: Synonym
synonym in Polish: Synonim
synonym in Portuguese: Sinônimo
synonym in Romanian: Sinonim
synonym in Quechua: Kaqlla simi
synonym in Russian: Синонимы
synonym in Albanian: Sinonimi
synonym in Simple English: Synonym
synonym in Slovak: Synonymum
synonym in Slovenian: Sopomenka
synonym in Serbian: Синоним
synonym in Serbo-Croatian: Sinonim
synonym in Finnish: Synonymia
synonym in Swedish: Synonym
synonym in Turkish: Sinonim
synonym in Ukrainian: Синонім
synonym in Walloon: Sinonimeye
synonym in Chinese: 同义词

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Doppelganger, actual thing, antonym, articulation, carbon copy, copy, dead ringer, ditto, double, duplicate, equivalent, exact counterpart, expression, facsimile, free form, homograph, homonym, homophone, idem, identical same, lexeme, linguistic form, locution, logos, metonym, minimum free form, monosyllable, no other, none other, polysyllable, replica, selfsame, spit and image, spitting image, syllable, term, the same, the same difference, twin, usage, utterance, verbalism, verbum, very image, very same, vocable, word
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