Definition and characteristic features of Synonyms

features of synonyms

Synonyms are phonetically and morphologically different words belonging to the same part of speech, possessing similar denotation but differing in connotation, combinability.

Usually in such a synonymic group, there is a synonymic dominant which is the most general, neutral word. The synonymic dominant here is “to help”.

English is very rich in synonyms chiefly due to the great number of borrowed words.


In the following extract, in which a young women rejects a proposal of marriage, the verbs “like”, “admire”, and “love” all describe feelings of attraction, approbation, fondness :

Ví dụ: “I have always liked you very much, I admire your talent, but forgive me ,I could never love you as a wife should love her husband” (from the Shivering Sands by V.Halt )

Yet, each of these verbs, though all describe more or less the same feeling of liking, describes it in its own way:

Ví dụ: “I like you, ie. I have certain warm feelings towards you, but they are not strong enough for me to describe it as love”. 

Here are some more extract that synonyms add precision to each detail of description and show how the correct choice of a word from a group of synonyms may color the whole text:

– The first extract depicts (mô tả) a domestic quarrel (sự cãi nhau):

Ví dụ: “The infuriated (tức điên) husband shouts and glares at his wife, but his glare suddenly softened into a gaze as he turned his eye on the little girl”.

– The second depicts a young father taking his child for a Sunday walk :

Ví dụ: “Neighbors were apt (có khả năng, rất có thể) to smile at the long-legged bare-headed young man leisurely strolling (đi dạo, tản bộ) along the street and his small companion demurely (kín đáo, e dè, từ tốn) trotting by his side” [from Some men and women by. B Lowndes].

Synonyms are one of the language`s most important expressive means. The above examples convincingly demonstrate that the principle function of synonym is to represent the same phenomenon in different aspects, shades and variations.

Here is an examples of how a great writer may use synonym for stylistic purposes,. In this extract from Death of a hero R.Aldington describe a group of survivors painfully retreating after a defeat I battle:

Ví dụ: 

” …The Frontshires (name of battalion (tiểu đoàn) staggered (so le) rather than walked down the bumpy (gập ghềnh, mấp mô) trench (mương rãnh) …About fifty men, the flotsam (vật nổi) of the wrecked battalion, stumble (vấp, sẩy chân, trượt chân) past them…

They shambled (lê lướt) heavily along the, not keeping step or attempting to, bent wearily (mệt mỏi, kiệt sức do cố gắng) forward under the weight of their equipment, their unseeing eyes (mù quáng, không tinh mắt) turned to the muddy ground”. 

In this extract, the verb to “walk” is used with its synonym, each of which describe the process of walking in its own way.

In contrast to “walk” the other three words do not merely convey the bare idea of going on foot but connote (bao hàm) the manner of walking as well.

A careful chosen word from a group of synonyms is a great asset not only in the printed page but also in a speaker’s utterance./.

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