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What Are Synonyms & Antonyms? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Words & Their Meanings
  • 0:15 Synonyms
  • 2:05 Antonyms
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

We use synonyms and antonyms in language usually without even noticing. Watch this video lesson to see examples and learn how to use each effectively for communication.

Words & Their Meanings

We have millions of words in the English language. These words help us communicate and get a message to another person. We use words constantly in order to express a particular feeling or meaning. Many of our words can be used interchangeably. Let's look at some of those words and their purpose in our language.

Synonyms

Words that have similar definitions are known as synonyms. We use synonyms constantly in speech and in writing. These are the words that can be used interchangeably, but the meaning of the message remains the same. For example, look at these two sentences:

  1. The long baseball game lasted over four hours
  2. The lengthy baseball game lasted over four hours.

Which word was changed in the second sentence? 'Lengthy' replaced the word 'long.' But did the meaning of the sentence change? No, it did not, because 'long' and 'lengthy' are synonyms; they have similar definitions. Synonyms can generally be used interchangeably without a change in meaning of the overall message.

Many synonyms are very useful because they can show different variations of the same understanding. To show this, let's look at the word 'good.' We all know the meaning of 'good.' It is one of the first understandings you come to as a child, and you learn quickly what it means to be a good kid. Generally speaking, 'good' can be defined as something correct or pleasant and enjoyable. There are numerous synonyms for good: okay, well, fine, great, excellent, magnificent and wonderful. All these words are describing a positive event or experience, but the variations can show a clearer understanding. For example, an 'okay day' is not as good as an 'excellent day.' But a 'wonderful day' is just about the same as a 'magnificent day.' The range of synonyms can give the audience or reader a better understanding of the speaker's exact intentions.

Understanding synonyms is important for not only precise communication, but variety in language. As a writer, you should use synonyms to reduce redundancy and keep writing or speech interesting to the audience. Remember the whole point of language is to express oneself or to send a message. If the audience gets bored or confused by the same word being used over and over, the message will be lost.

Antonyms

Once you know about synonyms, it is essential to learn about antonyms. Antonyms are the opposites of synonyms; antonyms are words with opposite definitions.

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