English LanguageStart - Smart Words

A list of common synonyms grouped in categories: for teachers, writers and students of English alike.

Synonmys

Common Synonyms

Sorted by Category

These lists also contain examples for the most common 100 words or so; however, the intention is not to replace a thesaurus. Within the categories the sorting is alphabetical. For the selection of the words the top 50 lists of the most "common words in English" (provided by the makers of the Oxford English Dictionary) were a preferred inspiration - mostly verbs and adjectives, only rarely nouns and adverbs.
Also, these are not exact synonyms, consider them as grouped in semantic fields - the reason being to provide a help for inspiration with these 50 examples of the most common synonyms and antonyms.

Definition

A synonym is a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or a phrase. Antonyms are words which have the opposite (or nearly opposite) meaning. For example: new and old.

Words that are synonyms are referred to as being synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy.

A thesaurus is a resource similar to a dictionary that helps writers to search synonyms - as a device to compose a verbose and scintillating text. This list provides some examples of commonly employed synonyms.

Utilizing synonyms is an elegant and frequently applied method to to make a text more pleasant to read. If the same word is used very often in several sentences, it might very well be the case, that this same word should describe something different in each of the sentences. Since synonyms are usually nuanced variations with slightly different meanings, their use will emphasize special characteristics, and thus the text will be more precise.

List of Synonyms


A list of common Synonyms & Antonyms

Download this List of Synonyms & Antonyms as a PDF file (300KB, 5 pages).

It contains all the synonyms & antonyms listed on this site. The image to the left gives you an impression how it looks like.

 


Exact Synonyms

According to one definition (attributed to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 - 1716)) two expressions are synonymous if the substitution of one for the other does not change the "truth value" of a sentence in which the substitution is made. This is a rather mathematical definition. However, true synonyms are rare; most so called synonyms have subtle differences in their meaning. Examples of true synonyms are rare in any language, if they exist at all.

In practice, some words are called synonyms, just because they are used to describe the same "fact" in different parts of the world. For example, autumn and fall are synonyms, but the former is used in British English and the latter in American English.

English is rich in synonyms because during the centuries it adopted a variety of foreign languages - most notably French, German and Latin.

Now, what does this mean? If a word in a sentence is changed, usually the meaning and perception of the sentence is also slightly altered - hopefully to the point of being more precise in its description.

Often we are looking for another word, to express something we have in mind. Existing online dictionaries can be used; however most of them are either slow, packed with advertisement, or not very helpful concerning their result lists. Here are sites which I tested, and found acceptable:

Ever wondered what the expression Holy Cow exactly means and what its origin is? The site also lists the 20 or so most common synonyms.

For further resources related to learning and teaching English, see also here