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A synonym is a word,
morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone, but a word on this definition alw ...
, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phrase in a given language. For example, in the English language, the words ''begin'', ''start'', ''commence'', and ''initiate'' are all synonyms of one another: they are ''synonymous'' . The standard test for synonymy is substitution: one form can be replaced by another in a sentence without changing its meaning. Words are considered synonymous in only one particular
sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain receives signals from the senses, ...
: for example, ''long'' and ''extended'' in the
context Context may refer to: * Context (language use), the relevant constraints of the communicative situation that influence language use, language variation, and discourse summary. Computing * Context (computing), the virtual environment required to ...
''long time'' or ''extended time'' are synonymous, but ''long'' cannot be used in the phrase ''extended family''. Synonyms with exactly the same meaning share a seme or denotational
sememe__NOTOC__ A sememe () is a semantic Semantics (from grc, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including l ...
, whereas those with inexactly similar meanings share a broader denotational or
connotation A connotation is a commonly understood culture, cultural or emotional association that any given word or phrase carries, in addition to its explicit or literal meaning (philosophy of language), meaning, which is its denotation. A connotation is f ...
al sememe and thus overlap within a
semantic fieldIn linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include pho ...
. The former are sometimes called cognitive synonyms and the latter, near-synonyms, plesionyms or poecilonyms.


Lexicography

Some
lexicographer Lexicography is divided into two separate but equally important groups: * Practical lexicography is the art or craft A craft or trade is a pastime or an occupation that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work. In a his ...
s claim that no synonyms have exactly the same meaning (in all contexts or social levels of language) because
etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". is the study of the history of words. By extension, th ...
,
orthography An orthography is a set of convention (norm), conventions for writing a language, including norms of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word, word breaks, Emphasis (typography), emphasis, and punctuation. Most transnational languages in the ...
, phonic qualities,
connotation A connotation is a commonly understood culture, cultural or emotional association that any given word or phrase carries, in addition to its explicit or literal meaning (philosophy of language), meaning, which is its denotation. A connotation is f ...
s, ambiguous meanings,
usage The usage of a language is the ways in which its written language, written and spoken language, spoken variations are routinely employed by its speakers; that is, it refers to "the collective habits of a language's native speakers", as opposed to id ...
, and so on 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
euphemism A euphemism () is an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that is deemed offensive or suggests something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes to ...
s.
Metonymy Metonymy () is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of pe ...
can sometimes be a form of synonymy: ''the
White House The White House is the official residence An official residence is the House, residence at which a nation's head of state, head of government, governor, Clergy, religious leader, leaders of international organizations, or other senio ...

White House
'' is used as a synonym of ''the administration'' in referring to the U.S.
executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (polity), state. The executive executes and enforces law. In political systems based on the princi ...
under a specific president. Thus a metonym is a type of synonym, and the word ''metonym'' is a
hyponym In linguistics, hyponymy (from Greek language, Greek ὑπό, ''hupó'', "under", and ὄνυμα, ''ónuma'', "name") is a semantics, semantic relation between a hyponym denoting a subtype and a hypernym or hyperonym denoting a supertype. In oth ...
of the word ''synonym''. The analysis of synonymy,
polysemy Polysemy ( or ; from grc-gre, πολύ-, , "many" and , , "sign") is the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple related meanings. Polysemy is thus distinct from homonymy—or homophone, homophony—which is an accidental similarity betwee ...
, hyponymy, and
hypernymy In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
is inherent to
taxonomy Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification scheme. Originally used only about biological ...
and
ontology Ontology is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Ph ...
in the information-science senses of those terms. It has applications in
pedagogy Pedagogy (), most commonly understood as the approach to teaching, is the theory and practice of learning Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding Understanding is a psychological process related to concepts, such as a person ...
and
machine learning Machine learning (ML) is the study of computer algorithms that can improve automatically through experience and by the use of data. It is seen as a part of artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms build a model based on sample data, ...

machine learning
, because they rely on
word-sense disambiguation Word-sense disambiguation (WSD) is an open problemIn science and mathematics, an open problem or an open question is a known problem which can be accurately stated, and which is assumed to have an objective and verifiable solution, but which has n ...
.


Etymology

The word is borrowed from
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the ...
''synōnymum'', in turn borrowed from
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages () ...
''synōnymon'' (), composed of ''sýn'' ( 'together, similar, alike') and ''-ōnym-'' (), a form of ''onoma'' ( 'name').


Sources of synonyms

Synonyms are often some from the different
strata (Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is ...
making up a language. For example, in English,
Norman French Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernésiais Guernésiais, also known as ''Dgèrnésiais'', Guernsey French, and Guernsey Norman French, is the variety of the Norman language Norman or Norman French (', french: Normand, Guernési ...
superstratum words and
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventu ...
substratum words continue to coexist. Thus, today we have synonyms like the Norman-derived ''people'', ''liberty'' and ''archer'', and the Saxon-derived ''folk'', ''freedom'' and ''bowman''. For more examples, see the
list of Germanic and Latinate equivalents in English This list contains Germanic elements of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, ...
.
Loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (lin ...
s are another rich source of synonyms, often from the language of the dominant culture of a region. Thus most European languages have borrowed from Latin and ancient Greek, especially for technical terms, but the native terms continue to be used in non-technical contexts. In
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

East Asia
, borrowings from Chinese in
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, an ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language * Korean alphabet, or Hangul Places * Korean Peninsula, a peninsula in East Asia * Korea, ...
, and
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...
often double native terms. In Islamic cultures, Arabic and Persian are large sources of synonymous borrowings. For example, in Turkish, ''kara'' and ''siyah'' both mean 'black', the former being a native Turkish word, and the latter being a borrowing from Persian. In
Ottoman Turkish Ottoman Turkish ( ota, لِسانِ عُثمانى, , ; tr, Osmanlı Türkçesi) was the standardized register (sociolinguistics), register of the Turkish language used in the Ottoman Empire (14th to 20th centuries CE). It borrowed extensively, ...
, there were often three synonyms: water can be ''su'' (Turkish), ''âb'' (Persian), or ''mâ'' (Arabic): "such a triad of synonyms exists in Ottoman for every meaning, without exception". As always with synonyms, there are nuances and shades of meaning or usage. In English, similarly, we often have Latin and Greek terms synonymous with Germanic ones: ''thought'', ''notion'' (L), ''idea'' (Gk); ''ring'', ''circle'' (L), ''cycle'' (Gk). English often uses the Germanic term only as a noun, but has Latin and Greek adjectives: ''hand'', ''manual'' (L), ''chiral'' (Gk); ''heat'', ''thermal'' (L), ''caloric'' (Gk). Sometimes the Germanic term has become rare, or restricted to special meanings: ''tide'', ''time''/''temporal'', ''chronic''. Many bound morphemes in English are borrowed from Latin and Greek and are synonyms for native words or morphemes: ''fish'', ''pisci-'' (L), ''ichthy-'' (Gk). Another source of synonyms is
coinage ''COINage'', a bi-monthly United States, American special-interest magazine, targeting Numismatics, numismatists and coin investment, investors. Behn-Miller Publications, Inc. - under the joint ownership of Gordon Behn and ''COINage'' editorial dire ...
s, which may be motivated by
linguistic purism Linguistic purism or linguistic protectionism is the prescriptive Linguistic prescription, or prescriptive grammar, is the attempt to establish rules defining preferred or correct usage of language. These rules may address such Linguistics, ...
. Thus the English word ''foreword'' was coined to replace the Romance ''preface''. In Turkish, ''okul'' was coined to replace the Arabic-derived ''mektep'' and ''mederese'', but those words continue to be used in some contexts.


Uses of synonyms

Synonyms often express a nuance of meaning or are used in different registers of speech or writing. Different technical fields may appropriate synonyms for specific technical meanings. Some writers avoid repeating the same word in close proximity, and prefer to use synonyms: this is called
elegant variation Elegant variation is the replacement of recurring words with synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phrase in the same language. For example, the words ''begin'', ''st ...
. Many modern style guides criticize this.


Examples

Synonyms can be any
part of speech In traditional grammar Traditional grammar is a framework for the description of the structure of a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sig ...
, as long as both words belong to the same part of speech. Examples: *noun: ''drink'' and ''beverage'' *verb: ''buy'' and ''purchase'' *adjective: ''big'' and ''large'' *adverb: ''quickly'' and ''speedily'' *preposition: ''on'' and ''upon'' Synonyms are defined with respect to certain senses of words: ''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''. A
thesaurus or synonym dictionary
thesaurus or synonym dictionary
lists similar or related words; these are often, but not always, synonyms. * The word ''poecilonym'' is a rare synonym of the word ''synonym''. It is not entered in most major dictionaries and is a curiosity or piece of trivia for being an
autological word An autological word (also called homological word) is a word that expresses a property that it also possesses (e.g., "word" is a word, "noun" is a noun, "English" is English, " pentasyllabic" has five syllables). The opposite is a heterological w ...
because of its
meta Meta (from the Ancient Greek, Greek μετά, ''wikt:meta-, meta'', meaning "after" or "beyond") is a prefix meaning "more comprehensive" or "transcending." Original Greek meaning In Ancient Greek, Greek, the prefix ''meta-'' is generally less e ...

meta
quality as a synonym of ''synonym''. *
Antonym In lexical semantics Lexical semantics (also known as lexicosemantics), is a subfield of linguistic Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
s are words with opposite or nearly opposite meanings. For example: ''hot'' ↔ ''cold'', ''large'' ↔ ''small'', ''thick'' ↔ ''thin'', ''synonym'' ↔ ''antonym'' * 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''. *
Homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct p ...
s are words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings. For example, ''witch'' and ''which'' are homophones in most accents (because they are pronounced the same). *
Homograph A homograph (from the el, ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and γράφω, ''gráphō'', "write") is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with se ...
s are words that have the same spelling but different meanings. For example, one can ''record'' a song or keep a ''record'' of documents. *
Homonym In linguistics, homonyms, broadly defined, are words which are homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of pronunciation) or homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of spelling), or both. For example, acco ...
s are words that have the same pronunciation and spelling but different meanings. For example, ''rose'' (a type of flower) and ''rose'' (past tense of ''rise'') are homonyms.


See also

*
-onym The suffix In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic an ...
*
Synonym (taxonomy) The Botanical and Zoological Codes of nomenclature treat the concept of synonymy differently. In botanical nomenclature Botanical nomenclature is the formal, scientific naming of plants. It is related to, but distinct from Alpha taxonomy, taxono ...
*
Cognitive synonymyCognitive synonymy is a type of synonymy in which synonyms are so similar in meaning (linguistics), meaning that they cannot be differentiated either denotation, denotatively or connotation, connotatively, that is, not even by association of ideas, m ...
*
Elegant variation Elegant variation is the replacement of recurring words with synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phrase in the same language. For example, the words ''begin'', ''st ...
, the gratuitous use of a synonym in prose *
Synonym ring In metadata Metadata is " data" that provides information about other data". In other words, it is "data about data". Many distinct types of metadata exist, including descriptive metadata, structural metadata, administrative metadata, reference ...
* Synonymy in Japanese *


References


External links

{{Authority control Types of words Semantic relations