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.

Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

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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Additional Activities

Synonyms and Antonyms Activity

Rewrite the Paragraph: Introductory Practice

In the following paragraphs, you will notice a word that is used over and over again. In writing, it is important to vary language in order to be as specific as possible. It's also imperative to diversify our word choice to keep the audience interested. For this activity, you will rewrite the following paragraphs by replacing the overused word (italicized) with a more specific synonym. Make sure not to re-use any words!

Paragraph 1 (Interesting)

My first day of school was interesting. First, I went to my homeroom and met my interesting teacher, Mrs. Zimmerman. She even let us pick our seats since it was the first day. She told us about all of the interesting things we will do this year. Later, at lunch, I sat next to my closest friends, Heather and Carly. They agreed that Mrs. Zimmerman was nice and interesting. I am excited for this school year, and I can't wait to learn about all of these interesting topics!

Paragraph 2 (Scary)

On the day before Halloween, my friends and I went to a haunted house. I knew it was going to be scary, but I still wanted to go. When we first arrived, there was a scary clown creeping around us while we were in line. He had a chainsaw. Even though there weren't any blades on the chainsaw, it was still scary. Once we entered the haunted house, there were many scary props and actors. I was so terrified that I ended up running until I reached the end. It was so scary!

Create Your Own Passage

Now create an original passage similar to the practice paragraphs above. Choose a word that is overused, such as easy, bad, or happy, and use different synonyms to replace the overused word. You should use the above paragraphs as examples for this activity.

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