What Are Synonyms? (with Examples)


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. However, they can be any part of speech.

  • The reason is unimportant.
  • The reason is irrelevant.
  • He eats fast.
  • He eats quickly.
  • Shall I take the dogs?
  • Shall I take the mutts?
  • I need to contemplate the consequences.
  • I need to consider the consequences.
  • I should tell her as she is my sister.
  • I should tell her because she is my sister.
  • (Note: These are known as subordinating conjunctions.)
  • Yes, Captain.
  • Aye, Captain.
  • Upon arrival, take a ticket.
  • On arrival, take a ticket.
  • I'll show you my yacht "Unsinkable II". She is a beauty.
  • I'll show you my yacht "Unsinkable II". It 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 that synonyms are words that mean, or very nearly mean, the same. Those differences can be important. Recognizing 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.
  • A piece shard of shrapnel shaved her shoulder blade.

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

According to Musician Burt Bacharach, a synonym is "a word you use when you can't spell the first word you thought of." (He was joking, of course.)
  • My conscence consiance integrity won't allow it.
  • (If you can't spell conscience...)
It's hard to condone this reason, but, hey, it's not unhelpful.

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

What are antonyms? What are the parts of speech? Glossary of grammatical terms