Abstract: the term synonymy refers to the relationship of sameness of meaning that may hold between words, e.g. handsome/pretty, pavement/ sidewalk. Synonymy is a
widespread relation in the vocabulary of English. In fact, there are interchangeable in all contexts. Moreover most English words are polysemous words. It is impossible that polysemous words could be synonymous in all their meanings. Therefore the tem synonym can be better defined as follows: “the term synonym is used in semantics to refer to a major type of sense-relation between lexical items. The lexical items which have the same meanings are synonyms, for two items to be synonyms, it dose not mean that they should be identical in meaning, i.e. interchangeable in all contexts, and
with identical connotations.”
Key word: synonym, vocabulary, lexical
1. The source of synonyms
1.1 English has not only the largest vocabulary, but also the most synonyms of any language in the world. That is to say. English is particularly rich in synonyms. This is because the English language has grown over many centuries by incorporating words from other languages.
1.2 The English vocabulary has come from different sources: from Anglo-Saxon on the one hand and from Latin, Greek or French on the other hand. Concretely speaking, there are three sources of synonyms in English. Before the conquest in 1066 the old English vocabulary included words borrowed from Latin, Greek and Scandinavian. After the Norman Conquest the English vocabulary was enriched by the addition of French words. Nowadays British English exists side by side with American English, and a lot of synonyms have been produced by both of the. That is why a great number of synonyms appear in the English vocabulary.
1.3 There are countless paired synonyms where a native word is opposed to one borrowed from Latin, Greek or French. These words are called doublets. In most cases the native word is more informal whereas the loan-word often has a learned value in lexical meaning. The native word is usually warmer and homelier than the loan-word in emotive meaning.
2. The significance of studying synonyms.
2.1 In his book our language, Simeon Potter describes what language is like. He
started that “language is like dress. We vary our dress to suit the occasion. We do not
appear at a friend‟s silver wedding anniversary in gardening clothes, nor do we go punting on the river in a dinner-jacket.”
From Potter‟s remark on language we know that a good knowledge of synonyms will help us to use words correctly in expressing ourselves in speech and writing.
2.2 In study of words we find that English has the largest vocabulary and the most synonyms of any language in the word. So it is important to distinguish between words of similar, but not identical meaning. To choose words wrongly is to leave a mistaken impression on the reader or hearer. To choose words well is to communicate with one another successfully. Therefore the study of synonyms is not only interesting
in itself, but also helps us to master the language, to use it well.
3. The two steps of synonym---absolute synonyms and relative synonyms.
3.1 absolute synonyms are words which are fully identical in meaning. There are a few absolute synonyms in English; these synonyms may be found in scientific terms. In ordinary language few words are absolute synonyms. Here are only a few examples.
mother tongue-native language
3.2 English has many relative synonyms. Relative synonyms differ from absolute synonyms in the following respects；
3.21 In shade of meaning:
The words finish, complete, close, conclude, end, terminate, and finalize are
relative synonyms. The common idea of these seven words is in the sense of accomplishing a task or completing an activity. But the difference in shad of meaning can be seen as follows；
The words finish and complete mean to bring to an anticipated end by doing all things that are necessary or appropriate to achieving that end. But the word complete
suggests the fulfillment of an assigned task, so we cannot always use finish as a
substitute for complete.
3.22 In stylistic meaning:
To die, to pass away, and to kick the bucket are relative synonyms. The word die is
the simplest word of this group and stylistically neutral. To pass away is a euphemistic
word used in the formal context. The phrase to kick the bucket is a slangy expression
used on very informal occasions.
3.23 In emotive meaning:
The words Negro, nigger and black are relative synonyms. They differ in their emotive meaning.
Negro is a neutral word in a somewhat derogatory sense.
Nigger is a derogatory term used in an impolite way.
Black is often used in a good sense. It is a commendatory term.
3.24 In range of use:
The words about and on meaning „with regard to‟ or „concerning‟ are relative synonyms. The difference between them is that on is used to suggest that a book,
article, lecture, etc. is serious or academic, suitable for specialists. About is used when
information is given more general.
3.25 In collocation:
Some relative synonyms are used in conjunction with certain words. Thus, the words rancid and addled are both adjectives meaning „not fresh‟. But rancid occurs with bacon or butter, whereas addled is used only with eggs or brains. These
synonyms differ only in that they occur in different environments.
3.26 In British and American usages:
British and American usages are different, although they are sometimes the same in meaning.
For example, the word fall is used in United States and in some western countries of Britain, whereas autumn is more often used in England。
To Introduce the Synonyms in a Broadest Way