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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.

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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.The purpose of antonyms is clear: they exist to show the opposite meaning of an idea. For example, if we want to express something that is good, we will eventually need to know that if it is not good, it will be bad.

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are antonyms since they have opposite definitions. This means, of course, that all the synonyms for good are also antonyms for bad. Also, all the synonyms for bad are antonyms for good.

To make this clear, think about these words: terrible, horrible, awful, dreadful, unpleasant, disagreeable. These words are all synonyms for the word ‘bad’. They have a similar definition, which is an event or experience that is not good or wrong. All these words are also antonyms for the word ‘good,’ in that each shows the opposite meaning of something that is good.

Finally, just like the synonyms for ‘good,’ these words can show different variations. A ‘horrible day’ is just a little bit worse than an ‘unpleasant day.’For practice with synonyms and antonyms, try to think of a synonym and an antonym for each of these words:

  • Fun (synonym = exciting, antonym = boring)
  • Run (synonym = jog, antonym = stand)
  • Stubborn (synonym = obstinate, antonym = flexible)
  • True (synonym = factual, antonym = false)

Lesson Summary

Learning about words and their meanings is imperative for clear communication. Without this understanding, you can run the risk of being redundant, boring or even confusing to your audience.

Using synonyms, which are words with similar meanings, can bring life and vibrancy to your writing. Don’t just use the word ‘good,’ choose a synonym, like ‘wonderful,’ ‘magnificent’ or ‘fine,’ to describe your situation.On the same note, understanding antonyms, which are words with opposite definitions, can help to express particular intentions and feelings. If something is not good, look at the antonyms, like ‘terrible,’ ‘horrible’ or ‘unpleasant,’ and choose the word to express your exact feeling. Be sure to correctly use synonyms and antonyms in order to make your communication clear and interesting.

Learning Outcome

After watching this lesson, you should be able to understand how to appropriately use synonyms and antonyms in your writing.

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