Any piece of writing, whether it is a story or an article, becomes uninteresting and boring, if we use a same word time and again. To make the language more interesting, attractive and a lot more expressive, we try to find out another word conveying the same meaning as the frequently used word. That is where Synonyms come into the picture.
A Synonym is a words or a phrase which convey exactly the same meaning or very nearly the same, as another word or phrase in the same language. Words that are synonyms are called synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is known as synonymy.
However, according to some lexicographers, no synonyms have exactly the same meaning and different words that are similar in meaning usually differ for a particular reason. For example, ‘feline’ is more formal than ‘cat’ and a ‘long arm’ is not the same as an’ extended arm’.
In any event, words from any part of speech can have synonyms, provided both are of the same part of speech. Examples: Car, Automobile, Motorcar (noun). Surprising, Amazing, Awesome, Incredible (adjective). Take part, Participate, Join, Accompany (verb). Swiftly, Quickly, Speedily, Rapidly (adverb). Amidst, Amid, Among, Amongst (Preposition).
While replacing a word with one of its synonyms, proper care should be taken, so that the specific meaning of the word in the context of the sentence is properly maintained. For example, let us take a sentence: He was senior to me at the University. In this particular sentence, the word ‘senior’ stands for ‘senior student. Hence, if the word ‘senior’ is replaced by ‘elder’ or older’, the meaning of the sentence will not make any sense.
A word that expresses the meaning opposed to the meaning of another word is called an antonym. However, one word may have more than one antonym also. Examples: Bad, Evil, Wicked, Malicious, Corrupt.
Most antonyms are pretty obvious. Known as Complementary antonyms, each of these words has only one antonym. Examples: good and bad / Black and white / Before and After / Day and night / Dead and alive / Buy and Sell.
There is a sub-category of the complementary antonym, which describes a relationship between two opposite terms, both of whom should be present, as without one the other cannot exist. Examples: Doctor and Patient / Father and Daughter / Husband and Wife / Man and Woman / Boy and Girl / Come and Go / High and Low / Push and Pull.
Graded antonyms are not the exact opposite words of equal weightings. They appear to be the shades of the oppositeness. If something is ‘not good’, it may be fair / bad / unsatisfactory / poor / terrible.
Some words can be transformed into their antonyms simply by adding the prefixes ‘un’, ‘in’, or ‘non’. Examples: likely, unlikely/ symmetrical, asymmetrical / typical, atypical / decent, indecent / entity, nonentity / fortunate, unfortunate.
A Homonym is a word that is pronounced the same as another word with a different meaning. Examples: Site, Sight, Cite / Bear, Bare.
There are two types of Homonyms – Homographs and Homophones.
When the words have the same spelling with more than one meaning, they are called Homographs. Examples: Lead (the metal / to go first with followers behind), Pike (a type of fish / a type of weapon), Bass (a deep voice / a type of fish), Bat ( a piece of sporting equipment / a winged animal), Refuse ( to reject / garbage).
Words with the same sound but with different spellings and meanings are known as Homophones. They may or may not be pronounced exactly the same way, though the difference in pronunciation is affected just due to a shift in the accented syllable. Examples: To, Two / Air, Heir / Beat, Beet / Plain, Plane.
When a word is formed from the initial letters of a name or by combining initial letters of a series of words, the new word is called an acronym. Examples: UNESCO - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation / ATM - Automated teller machine / WHO – World Health Organisation / CBI – Central Bureau of Investigation / SIM – Subscriber Identification Module / AIDS - Acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Due to frequent use for a considerable period of time, some acronyms have now become normal words, though generally they are used without conscious awareness of their original full form. Examples: GIF - graphics interchange format / Radar (radio detection and ranging) / Laser – (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation),