What Are Synonyms?

Definition of "Synonym"

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 are described as synonymous.

Table of Contents

  • Examples of Synonyms
  • Synonyms Can Be Any Part of Speech
  • Synonyms Contrast with Antonyms
  • Examples of Synonyms and Antonyms
  • Why Synonyms Are Important
  • Test Time!
synonyms examples

Examples of Synonyms

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

Synonyms Can Be Any Part of Speech

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.

Synonyms Contrast with Antonyms

Synonyms contrast with antonyms. Antonyms are words with opposite meanings, making them the opposite of synonyms. For example:
  • "Bad" is an antonym of "good."
  • "Coward" is an antonym of "hero."
antonyms examples

Examples of Synonyms and Antonyms

Here are some more examples of synonyms and antonyms.
clarifyexplain, simplifyconfuse
defendprotect, shieldattack, assault
enemyfoe, opponentally, friend
falseincorrect, untruetrue
gathercollect, accumulatescatter, disperse
irritateannoy, agitate, provokesoothe, calm
jubilantdelighted, elated, overjoyeddejected, depressed
kindconsiderate, tender, thoughtfulmean, cruel, inconsiderate
looseslack, limptight
maximumgreatest, highest, uppermostminimum, least

Why Synonyms Are Important

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 fine-tune 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.)
Read more about connotation.

(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.

Key Points

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.