All about Synonymy

All about
Word origin: Greek, syn = same, onyma = a name
What is it?
 Synonymy is the coincidence in the essential
meaning of words which usually preserve their
differences in connotations and stylistic
 Synonyms – are two or more words belonging to
the same part of speech and possessing one or
more identical or nearly identical denotational
meanings, interchangeable in some context.
 awful / terrible / scaring
 big / large / huge
 smart / clever / gifted
 photograph / picture / shot
 It is important to remember
that synonyms are not words
that have the same meaning,
but rather, words that
have similar meanings. This
means that by learning
synonyms, students learn to
differentiate between shades
of meaning. This enables them
to be more precise.
 Short list of synonyms in English,
listed by the part of speech
 Each group of synonyms comprises a synonymic dominant –
the unit possessing the most general meaning of the kind,
 e.g. to shine: to flash, to blaze, to gleam, to glisten, to
sparkle, to glitter, to shimmer, to glimmer.
 Ideographic synonyms denote different shades
of meaning or degrees of a given quality. They
sometimes called relative synonyms
beautiful, fine, handsome, pretty, pleasant /
different, various / large, great, huge,
tremendous, colossal
of synonyms
 Stylistic synonyms differ in usage and style
e.g. doctor (official), doc (familiar) / examination
(official), exam (coll.) / to commence (official), to
begin (coll.)
 Contextual (context-dependent) synonyms are
similar in meaning in certain context.
the verbs to buy and to get would not generally be
taken as synonyms, but they are synonyms in the
following context:
I’ll go to the shop and buy some bread.
I’ll go to the shop and get some bread.
 Total synonyms can replace each other in any given context without
the slightest alteration in denotative or emotional meaning and
the terms noun and substantive, functional affix, flexion and inflection
are identical in meaning.
 Phraseological synonyms. The same misunderstood conception of
incherchangeability lies at the bottom of considering different dialect
names for the same plant, animal, etc.
the cornflower is so called because it grows in cornfields; some people
call it bluebottle according to the shape and colour of its petals.
English is very rich in synonyms. An elementary
dictionary of synonyms which is not at all
exhaustive, contains over 8000 synonyms. Various
reasons account for that:
 Borrowings
The sources of
 There are also words that come from
dialects, and, in the last hundred years,
from American English in particular. As a
result speakers of British English may make
use of both elements of the following pairs,
the first element in each pair coming from
the USA:
gimmick - trick; dues - subscription; long
distance (telephone) call - trunk call; radio wireless.
 There are also synonyms that originate in
numerous dialects as, for instance,
clover-shamrock; liquor - whiskey (from
Irish); girl - lass, lassie or charm glamour (from Scottish).
 The words already existing in the language
develop new meanings and are formed by
affixation, conversion, compounding,
shortening and form synonyms to those
already in use.
memorandum - memo; vegetables - vegs;
margarine - marge; microphone - mike/mic;
popular (song) - pop (song).
or lexical
 One should not overlook the fact that
conversion may also be a source of
commandment - command
laughter - laugh.
 The problem in this connection is whether
such cases should be regarded as synonyms
or as lexical variants of one and the same
word. It seems more logical to consider
them as lexical variants.
 Compare also cases of different affixation:
anxiety - anxiousness; effectivity effectiveness, amongst - among or await-wait.
 employed for certain stylistic purposes
e.g. in one’s birthday suit (naked), in the
family way (pregnant) – euphemisms; mug
(face), bloody (devilish) – vulgarisms.
with the nonliteral
figurative use
 Synonyms connected with the non-literal
figurative use of words in pictorial
language, e.g. walk of life (occupation,
profession), star-gazer (dreamer)
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