syn·​o·​nym | \ ˈsi-nə-ˌnim How to pronounce synonym (audio) \

Definition of synonym

1 : one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses
2a : a word or phrase that by association is held to embody something (such as a concept or quality) a tyrant whose name has become a synonym for oppression
3 : one of two or more scientific names used to designate the same taxonomic group — compare homonym

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Other Words from synonym

synonymic \ ˌsi-​nə-​ˈni-​mik How to pronounce synonymic (audio) \ or less commonly synonymical \ ˌsi-​nə-​ˈni-​mi-​kəl How to pronounce synonymical (audio) \ adjective
synonymity \ ˌsi-​nə-​ˈni-​mə-​tē How to pronounce synonymity (audio) \ noun

Some Differences Between Synonyms and Antonyms

The English language (and, we may presume, many other languages) has both antonyms and synonyms. There are many more words with synonyms than there are words with antonyms, since many things exist which do not have an opposite (the word sandwich, for instance, may be said to have synonyms in the words hoagie, grinder, submarine, and many other words, but there is no opposite of sandwich). Antonym is also a much more recent addition to English than synonym is; it first appeared in the 1860s, whereas synonym has been used for more than 500 years. Additionally, both nouns have adjectival forms: synonymous and antonymous. Synonymous, which is often used loosely ("She has become synonymous with good taste"), is the more common of the two.

Examples of synonym in a Sentence

I very much enjoyed the chapter on obscenity, which asks the difficult question of how words deemed taboo differ from their inoffensive synonyms …  . It can't obviously be the referent of the term, since that is the same, and it isn't merely that the taboo words are more accurately descriptive … — Colin McGinn, The New York Review of Books, 27 Sept. 2007 The debris hurtled by so fast that the New York Times editorial page seemed to run out of synonyms for disgust, revulsion and abuse. — Michael Duffy et al., Time, 5 Mar. 2001 "Hollywood" is not, of course, a place. Nor is it a synonym for the entertainment business. There are upstanding citizens who make their living in that field. — P. J. O'Rourke, Republican Party Reptile, 1987 “Small” and “little” are synonyms.
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Recent Examples on the Web Recession is a word, which is loosely, and wrongly, used as a synonym for slowdown. Prathamesh Mulye, Quartz India, "In a coronavirus-struck world, India and China alone may escape a recession this year," 26 Apr. 2020 The iconic defense attorney's name became a synonym for lawyer and the early hour-long series created a template for all the legal dramas that followed. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus: The best classic TV shows to stream right now, from 'Lucy' to 'Star Trek'," 30 Mar. 2020 In fact, a synonym in Italian for tuorlo (yolk) is rosso (red). CBS News, "Recipes from pasta master Evan Funke," 28 Sep. 2019 The company isn’t saying how much profanity is in the collar’s vocabulary, but a video on the MSCHF website features the F-word and a synonym for poop. Mary Colurso |, al, "When your dog barks, the Cuss Collar lets out a ‘@#%!’," 17 Feb. 2020 Civility is as often as not a dirty word, a synonym for moral compromise and not a prescription for practical politics. Susan B. Glasser, The New Yorker, "The Closing of the Senatorial Mind," 25 Jan. 2020 The Bengals revealed their Bengalness (synonym for ineptitude, look it up) a couple of different ways in the second half., "Thirty-four thoughts on the Patriots’ 34-13 win over the Bengals . . .," 16 Dec. 2019 Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator whose name became a synonym for witch hunts and demagoguery, may finally be ready for his closeup — more than 40 years since his last one. Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Report: A big-screen biography of Joseph McCarthy is in the works," 6 Feb. 2020 But there are actually quite a few synonyms for — or definitions of — the word resolution. Katie Workman, NBC News, "8 tips to make weeknight dinner more doable in 2020," 9 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'synonym.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of synonym

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for synonym

Middle English sinonyme, from Latin synonymum, from Greek synōnymon, from neuter of synōnymos synonymous, from syn- + onyma name — more at name

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Time Traveler for synonym

Time Traveler

The first known use of synonym was in the 15th century

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Statistics for synonym

Last Updated

10 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Synonym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for synonym


How to pronounce synonym (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of synonym

: a word that has the same meaning as another word in the same language
: a word, name, or phrase that very strongly suggests a particular idea, quality, etc.


syn·​o·​nym | \ ˈsi-nə-ˌnim How to pronounce synonym (audio) \

Kids Definition of synonym

: a word having the same or almost the same meaning as another word in the same language


syn·​onym | \ ˈsin-ə-ˌnim How to pronounce synonym (audio) \

Medical Definition of synonym

: a taxonomic name rejected as being incorrectly applied or incorrect in form

Other Words from synonym

synonymity \ ˌsin-​ə-​ˈnim-​ət-​ē How to pronounce synonymity (audio) \ noun, plural synonymities

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More from Merriam-Webster on synonym

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for synonym

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with synonym

Spanish Central: Translation of synonym

Nglish: Translation of synonym for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of synonym for Arabic Speakers

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