- a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the language, as happy, joyful, elated. A dictionary of synonyms and antonyms (or opposites), such as Thesaurus.com, is called a thesaurus.
- a word or expression accepted as another name for something, as Arcadia for pastoral simplicity or Wall Street for U.S. financial markets; metonym.
- Biology. one of two or more scientific names applied to a single taxon.
Origin of synonym
Noun synonyms sometimes mean exactly the same thing. A Dalmatian is a coach dog —same dog. A bureau is a chest of drawers. And if you ask for a soda on the east coast of the U.S., you’ll get the same drink that asking for a pop will get you farther west. The object referred to remains constant. But forest and wood, though often interchangeable, have different shades of meaning: a forest tends to be larger and denser than a wood. And when we move from nouns to other parts of speech, we almost always find subtle but important differences among synonyms: although the meanings overlap, they differ in emphasis and connotation. A sunset might be described equally well as beautiful or resplendent, but a beautiful baby would not usually be described as resplendent, which implies an especially dazzling appearance. The verbs make and construct mean roughly the same thing, but one is more likely to make a cake but construct a building, which is a more complex undertaking.
Lists of synonyms are useful when we are struggling to write and looking for just the right word, but each word must be considered in light of its specific definition. Notes at the bottom of a dictionary entry—especially usage notes and synonym studies—are often where we’ll find the detailed information that allows us to improve (or refine or polish ) our writing.
- a word that means the same or nearly the same as another word, such as bucket and pail
- a word or phrase used as another name for something, such as Hellene for a Greek
- biology a taxonomic name that has been superseded or rejected
Word Origin and History for synonymity
early 15c. (but rare before 18c.), from Latin synonymum, from Greek synonymon "word having the same sense as another," noun use of neuter of synonymos "having the same name as, synonymous," from syn- "together, same" (see syn-) + onyma, Aeolic dialectal form of onoma "name" (see name (n.)).