AskDefine | Define synonymous

Dictionary Definition

synonymous adj : (of words) meaning the same or nearly the same [ant: antonymous]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. having a similar meaning
  2. of, or being a synonym


Derived terms


having a similar meaning
of, or being a 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

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