What Are Synonyms and Antonyms?
Synonyms are words with an exact or similar meaning as another given word or phrase. When words are synonyms of each other, we say that they are synonymous and therefore have synonymy. For example, check out these synonym words, whole and complete.
Whole and complete have very similar definitions and are therefore synonyms. One way to test whether or not two words are synonyms is to use them interchangeably in a sentence. For example:
Gene has the whole Harry Potter series on his bookshelf.
Gene has the complete Harry Potter series on his bookshelf.
It doesn’t matter which word you choose, whole or complete, the meaning of the sentence remains true. For these reasons, whole and complete are synonymous. Now, you might notice, though they mean the same thing, each word can be used to convey a slightly different meaning. This does not change the fact that they are still synonyms.
Let’s look at some other synonyms:
Because it was raining hard, Mary hurried into school.
Because it was raining hard, Mary rushed into school.
Seeing that hurried and rushed have almost the same meaning and can easily be interchanged in the same sentence show that these two words are synonymous.
Now let’s take a look at what it’s called when two words or phrases have opposite, or almost opposite, meanings.
Antonyms are words opposite in meaning to another given word or phrase. When words or phrases are antonyms of each other, we say that they are antonymous. When words are antonymous, we say they have antonymy. If you were to try to use antonymous words or phrases interchangeably, your sentence would have the opposite of its intended meaning. Take the words tall and short, for example.
Giraffes are very tall due to the length of their necks.
Giraffes are very short due to the length of their necks.
It’s clear that the words tall and short convey different meanings when used. In this case, only one option is true as it is common knowledge that giraffes are very tall due to their long necks.
Here’s another example:
Sarah noticed a strange bite on her dog’s leg.
Sarah noticed a normal bite on her dog’s leg.
In this example, once again, the meanings of the sentences change depending on the word that is chosen to describe the bite. Strange and normal are antonymous because of their opposing meanings and inability to be used interchangeably in a sentence.
Let’s try a few exercises together and see if you can figure which words are synonymous and antonymous.
Identify the antonyms for the following examples:
Option B is the correct answer. Good and poor are antonymous.
Option C is the correct answer. Look and ignore are antonymous.
Option B is the correct answer. Disadvantage and benefit are antonymous.
Identify the synonyms for the following examples:
Option A is the correct answer. Pin and hold are synonymous.
Option B is the correct answer. Dirt and soil are synonymous.
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Option D is the correct answer. Peer and fellow are synonymous.
How did you do picking out the antonyms and synonyms? Here’s a helpful pro tip:
A thesaurus is a great tool for figuring out the synonyms and antonyms of words and phrases. It works very similarly to a dictionary except it is specifically for identifying synonyms and antonyms. Being aware of synonyms and antonyms is a great way to expand your vocabulary and add depth to your sentences!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson. See you guys next time!