Synonyms: What Are Synonyms? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on June 7, 2023

Synonyms are a great way to improve your writing. If you'd like to know more about what they are and how to use them, you've come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know.

In short:

  • Words that are synonyms have similar meanings. Depending on the type of synonym, the degree of similarity will vary from completely identical to somewhat comparable. 

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Synonyms?

The word 'synonym' comes from the Greek words syn, meaning 'same,' and Sonoma, meaning 'name.'

  • It makes sense then that the word is used to identify two or more words with similar meanings.

The word 'synonym' is a noun, and its adjective is synonymous. 'Hot' and 'warm' are synonymous, for instance.

An ' antonym is the opposite, as it is used to identify a word that's the direct opposite. 'Hot' and 'cold' are antonyms, for instance.

The fun thing about synonyms is they come in all parts of speech.

Here are some examples:

The English language owes its rich vocabulary to the fact that it borrowed and adopted words from many different languages throughout its history. This also goes a long way in explaining why we have so many synonyms. In fact, there are so many that a special dictionary had to be invented just to contain them all: the thesaurus. So the good news is that if you're ever looking for a word's synonym, you know where to search!

So why do we use synonyms? The truth is there are several reasons. For one, it helps you avoid repetition. There's nothing worse than using the same word over and over.

Take the following sentence, for example:

I've had a pretty bad day because my breakfast was bad and my dog behaved very badly.

Instead of using the word 'bad' three times, we could use synonyms to avoid repetition.

Let's give it a go:

I've had a pretty awful day because my breakfast was dreadful and my dog behaved very naughtily.

As well as this, synonyms can allow you to be more specific and choose the exact right word for what you're trying to say.

Look at our example just now. The term 'bad' is pretty broad. For a dog to behave 'badly' could mean several things. By clarifying that it acted in a naughty way, you're being a lot more specific.

Not to mention they allow you to show off your vast vocabulary!

Types of Synonyms

You might have noticed that not all synonyms have identical meanings. Sometimes the resemblance can be pretty loose. That's because there are different types. Let's have a look at what those are.


Absolute synonyms are the most similar type. Their meaning is completely identical, and you could use the two words interchangeably without affecting the meaning of your sentence.

Here are some examples of absolute synonyms:

  • restroom = bathroom
  • peril = danger
  • satisfied = content


Partial synonyms can imply a slightly different meanings. That difference is often found in the degree, amount, or specificity level.

Here are some examples:

  • hot = boiling
  • computer = laptop
  • building = house


Near synonyms can't be used interchangeably; their meaning is too different.

  • cute = pretty
  • crazy = silly
  • knowledge = ability

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article on synonyms; I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Synonyms are two are more words that have similar meanings.
  • They can be used to avoid repetition, be more specific, or show a rich vocabulary.
  • There are three types of synonyms: absolute, partial, and near.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our Grammar Book, a free online database of grammar articles just like this one.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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