Synonyms and Antonyms

Understanding how words relate to each other can often add meaning to a passage. This is explained by understanding synonyms (words that mean the same thing) and antonyms (words that mean the opposite of one another). As an example, dry and arid are synonyms, and dry and wet are antonyms. There are many pairs of words in English that can be considered synonyms, despite having slightly different definitions. For instance, the words friendly and collegial can both be used to describe a warm interpersonal relationship, so it would be correct to call them synonyms. However, collegial (kin to colleague) is more often used in reference to professional or academic relationships, while friendly has no such connotation. Nevertheless, it would be appropriate to call these words synonyms. If the difference between the two words is too great, however, they may not be called synonyms. Hot and warm are not synonyms, for instance, because their meanings are too distinct. A good way to determine whether two words are synonyms is to substitute one for the other and see if the sentence means the same thing. Substituting warm for hot in a sentence would convey a different meaning. Antonyms are opposites. Light and dark, up and down, right and left, good and bad: these are all sets of antonyms. It is important to distinguish between antonyms and pairs of words that are simply different. Black and gray, for instance, are not antonyms because gray is not the opposite of black. Black and white, on the other hand, are antonyms. Not every word has an antonym. For instance, many nouns do not. What would be the antonym of chair, after all? On a standardized test, the questions related to antonyms are more likely to concern adjectives. Remember that adjectives are words that describe a noun. Some common adjectives include red, fast, skinny, and sweet. Of these four examples, only red lacks a group of obvious antonyms.


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Last updated: 01/08/2018
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