What is a Synonym Study Guide
What is a Synonym
This lesson helps you build word power through a review of useful synonyms and antonyms, good for bulking up your vocabulary.
All writers and speakers eventually face a similar problem: What word(s) should I use to communicate exactly what I mean? How can I make myself clear? Will the person listening or reading understand my thoughts?
Choosing the right word is probably the most difficult part of both speaking and writing. Using just the right word is at the heart of everyone's wish to be understood. Therefore, the fundamental goal of this book is to help you choose wisely as you increase your word power. Knowing lots of words is the key: the more words you know, the better able you'll be to choose the right ones as you communicate.
Building a strong vocabulary isn't something you can do overnight. Learning new words and how to use them is a never-ending process. Someone who is a good listener and a careful reader will continue to learn new words throughout life, because there will always be new words to learn. Think of all the words you know related to computers and television. None of those words even existed a hundred years ago because computers and TVs didn't exist. So don't be discouraged about not knowing enough words; remember that the language is growing right along with you.
One of the genuine pleasures of building your vocabulary is learning all the different words that can communicate the same idea. How many times do you say, You know what I mean? or, I mean. . . . Each time you say that, you're introducing the idea that you're going to repeat your thought, using different words. We all do it because we all want to make ourselves understood, and we strive to find the right words to accomplish this. When we repeat a thought in different words, we usually use synonyms, one of the most useful devices in our language.
You've already been introduced to the word synonym in Lesson 1. A common dictionary definition of the word is:
- a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language. Some synonyms for the word happy are joyful, elated, and glad.
Simple enough, right? You use synonyms all the time, even if you didn't always know the official name for them. You've also probably used the opposite of a synonym, an antonym, which is defined as:
- a word having a meaning opposite to that of another word. The word wet is an antonym of the word dry.
When you learn a new word, you may grasp its meaning by associating it with one of its synonyms that you already know. For example, what's another word for decrease? You know that decrease means to make smaller, and its antonym is increase. So what is one of its synonyms? A good synonym for decrease is diminish. Write a sentence here using the word diminish.
Do you like the sentence you wrote any better because it uses diminish instead of decrease? Does it sound more important? More grown-up? More precise?
How to Find the Synonym You Need
Many writers turn to a thesaurus to find synonyms. As we warned before, however, using a thesaurus is tricky unless you already know the exact meaning of each synonym listed for a word. If you don't, you run the risk of picking a word with the wrong connotation, or even the wrong denotation. Review Lesson 4 if you're not confident about the difference between denotation and connotation.
If you feel the need for extra help when you write, use a dictionary. It can help you to see the subtle differences in how a word can be used. For even more help, check out a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms. These dictionaries define all the synonyms and antonyms so you're less likely to substitute a word that doesn't make sense.
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
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