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
b : metonym
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 synonym (audio) \ or less commonly synonymical \ ˌsi-​nə-​ˈni-​mi-​kəl How to pronounce synonym (audio) \ adjective
synonymity \ ˌsi-​nə-​ˈni-​mə-​tē How to pronounce synonym (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 The name also is a relative synonym for the dam, Strong Incentive. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "What's in a name? Here's how the 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby got theirs," 28 Apr. 2021 The word filibuster, though, lived on as a synonym for any furtive attempt to defend the slave interest and, after that, white supremacy by subverting legitimate political procedure. John Patrick Leary, The New Republic, "The Manifest Destiny Marauders Who Gave the “Filibuster” Its Name," 5 Mar. 2021 The name tarot is derived from the Italian tarocchi, with its derivative, taroch being a synonym for foolishness. Alegría Adedeji, Harper's BAZAAR, "After a Bad Break Up, Tarot Dispelled My Anxiety," 17 Feb. 2021 In countless languages and religions, breath is a synonym for life, as well as for the spirit or soul. Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, "What Happens When You Breathe," 18 Jan. 2021 Sometimes strange is just a synonym for excitement. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "Cleveland Browns vs. Jaguars preview: Previewing Jacksonville and how they match up," 25 Nov. 2020 Today, porcelain’s proliferation in the West remains evident in the use of the word ‘china’ as a synonym for porcelain, Leidy adds. David Lumb, Popular Mechanics, "109 Ways Silicon Completely Rules Every Part of Your Life," 9 Dec. 2020 Google has dominated Internet search for so long that the company's name has become a synonym for the act of searching. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "5 key things to know about the Google antitrust lawsuit," 20 Oct. 2020 Body-on-frame isn't a synonym for primitive, as evinced by the Escalade's underpinnings. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Cadillac gives the new 2021 Escalade SUV a huge technology upgrade," 19 Oct. 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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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Synonym.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for synonym



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 synonym (audio) \ noun, plural synonymities

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