A synonym is a word or phrase that means the same (or very nearly the same) as another word or phrase. Words that are synonyms can be described as synonymous.

Easy Examples of Synonyms

  • He is happy /glad.
  • (Happy and glad are synonymous.)
  • Actress Kate Beckinsale studied / read French and Russian literature at Oxford.
Synonyms in one context might not be synonyms in another.
  • He studied / read in the kitchen.
  • (Here, studied and read are not synonymous.)

    More Examples of Synonyms

    Synonyms usually relate to adjectives, adverbs, nouns or verbs.
    • Adjectives: The reason is unimportant /irrelevant.
    • Adverbs: He eats fast / quickly.
    • Nouns: Release the dogs /hounds.
    • Verbs: Contemplate / consider the consequences.
    Synonyms with the following parts of speech are far less common.
    • Conjunctions: I should tell her as / because she is my sister.
    • Interjections: Yes / Aye, Captain.
    • Prepositions: Upon / on arrival, take a ticket.
    • Pronouns: This is my boat "Unsinkable II". It / She is a beauty.

    Why Should I Care about Synonyms?

    There are three good reasons and one bad reason to care about synonyms:

    (Good Reason 1) To keep your writing interesting

    Repeating the same word can make writing dull.
    • Thank you for your cooperation. We would have failed without your cooperation.
    Keep your writing interesting by creating some literary variance with synonyms.
    • Thank you for your assistance. We would have failed without your cooperation.
    (You don't have to achieve literary variance as you're typing. Just repeat the word and then let your thesaurus earn its living.)

    (Good Reason 2) To finetune your communications

    Remember, synonyms are words that mean, or very nearly mean, the same. Those differences are usually important. Recognising the different connotations (i.e., the implied meanings) of synonyms will help you nail the right word, be it in a poem or a business letter.
    • The pond was dark /murky.
    • (Choose the word that fits the precise image you want to portray.)

    (Good Reason 3) To find a rhyming, rhythmic or alliterative word

    To find a word that fits your needs poetically, put a synonym and then use your thesaurus to hunt down a better fitting synonym.

    (Bad Reason 1) To avoid a word you can't spell

    • A synonym is a word you use when you canít spell the first word you thought of. (Musician Burt Bacharach)
    It's hard to condone this reason, but, hey, it's not unhelpful.

    Key Points

    • Use synonyms to apply literary variance.
    • Use the subtle differences in synonyms to finetune your message.
    • Use your thesaurus to find the word that fits your needs poetically.
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