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Synonyms and Antonyms Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Synonyms and Antonyms

In this lesson, you'll discover that two words may mean the same or mean just the opposite.

Knowing words with the same or opposite meaning can help you make sense of unknown words.

When you read, you may come across a word you don't know. You can often figure out its meaning by thinking of a synonym or antonym for it.

A synonym means the same, or almost the same, as the unknown word.

Example 1 I felt so ungainly, tripping over my own feet as we headed to the dance floor!

Can you think of a word to replace ungainly that would still describe someone who trips? How about clumsy, awkward, or gawky? They all have about the same meaning, but doesn't it sound more embarrassing to be ungainly than clumsy? By using ungainly, the author tells you more about the person's feelings.

An antonym means the opposite of the unknown word.

Example 2 He collapsed after another arduous day of work in the mine.

Can you think of a word to describe work that probably would NOT make someone collapse? How about easy, simple, or effortless? They all mean the opposite of hard or difficult, which is what arduous means!

Also, or, and like often signal a synonym is in the text near an unknown word. But or unlike often signal an antonym. Use the synonym or antonym to help you figure out the unknown word.

Example 3 Gigi thought she'd be calm once the test was over, but now she was angst-ridden about the results.

The word but in the example signals an antonym. Gigi thought she'd be calm, but she's the opposite. So angst-ridden must mean "anxious" or "worried."

Here are just a few words with their synonyms and antonyms. Note how a synonym may mean the same but give a different feeling to the original word.

Exercises for this lesson can be found at

Synonyms and Antonyms Practice Exercises

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