Everything you always wanted to know about synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, ... and then some!
Synonyms are different words which have the same meaning, or almost the same meaning.
The words stones and rocks are synonyms.
Synonyms can be nouns, verbs, adverbs or adjectives, as long as both are the same part of speech.
- chair and seat (nouns)
- go and leave (verbs)
- quickly and rapidly (adverbs)
- long and extended (adjectives)
Synonyms need not be single words, as in war and armed conflict.
Here are more synonyms:
- tremendous and remarkable
- cat and feline
- baby and infant
- sick and ill
- quickly and speedily
A word can have more than one synonym depending on which meaning you use for the word.
- expired could have the synonym no longer fresh, if you mean milk that's past its sale date.
- expired could have the synonym dead, if you mean no longer alive.
Antonyms are words which have opposite meanings.
The words hot and cold are antonyms. So are up and down, and short and tall.
A word can have more than one antonym, depending on which meaning you use for the word.
- short could have the antonym tall if you are referring to a person's height.
- short could have the antonym long if you are referring to to the length of something.
In many languages, including English, you can sometimes make antonyms by adding a prefix:
- real and unreal are antonyms
- flexible and inflexible are antonyms
However, English is well known for its exceptions to the rules, so you have to watch out for words like flammable and inflammable, where this doesn't work ... they're synonyms!
There are actually four types of antonyms:
HOMONYMS and more ...
A homonym ('same name') is a word that has the same pronunciation and spelling as another word, but a different meaning.
For example, mean (an average) and mean (nasty) are homonyms. They are identical in spelling and pronunciation, but different in meaning.
Here are some more homonyms:
- punch (a drink) and punch (a hit)
- dog (an animal) and dog (to follow closely)
- bat (an animal) and bat (baseball equipment)
Homonyms are by definition also homographs and homophones (see below).
A homograph ('same writing') is a word that has the same spelling as another word, but a different meaning.
For example, punch and punch are homographs, but so are bow (Robin Hood's weapon) and bow (the front of the ship). Homographs don't have to be pronounced the same way.
A homophone ('same sound') is a word that has the same pronunciation as another word, but a different meaning.
For example, punch and punch are homophones, but so are creak (the sound) and creek (a tiny river). Homophones don't have to be spelled the same way.
Here are some more homophones:
- there, their and they're
- to, too, and two
- led and lead (the metal)
- weak and week
Many puns rely on homophones for their humour.
But wait ... there's more!
Heteronyms, or heterophones ('different name') are spelled the same, but have different pronunciations and meanings.
For example, desert (to abandon) and desert (a dry region) have the same spelling, but are pronounced differently, and have different meanings.
(Heteronyms are homographs that are pronounced differently ... or homographs that aren't homophones).
Contronyms, or antagonyms have opposite meanings in different contexts.
For example, cleave can mean to stick together, or to split apart.
Capitonyms are spelled the same but have different meanings when capitalised.
- polish (to shine something) and Polish (from Poland). These are pronounced differently.
- caterpillar (the insect) and Caterpillar (the machinery company). These are pronounced the same.
Capitonyms may or may not be pronounced the same.