Trivia Teaser

Which is an essential ingredient of a Margherita pizza?

Pineapple
Basil
Olives
Parma ham

Synonomous with?

23
May
2013
 

By Christine Lovatt

As crossword solvers, you will be only too familiar with the synonym, the most common form of crossword clue, a word that means the same as another. Big and large, small and little, topic and theme or field and paddock.

But it’s been said that there’s no such thing as a completely synonymous synonym – that is, two words that have EXACTLY the same meaning – there’s always a shade, a nuance of difference, between them. For instance, pace and step are often used to clue each other, but Collins dictionary defines pace as 'a step of approximately three feet', whereas step is not measured.

Calm and serene seem fairly synonymous, but you wouldn’t describe the sea as being serene, while you might talk about a calm sea. Big and large mean the same but usage still varies. If you refer to ‘a big boy’ as opposed to ‘a little boy’, you don’t necessarily mean ‘a large boy’. You might mention a little song, but a small song sounds strange.

Some words have no synonyms, and have to be described in several words, and as crossword compilers, we endeavour to give you the most accurate clue. However, we are mostly limited to using the shortest clue possible so that we can fit all the clues onto the page, especially when working on one of our giant crosswords.

You can’t define snow in one word, for instance, although some languages such as Inuit reputedly have many words for snow. We try to vary the clues as much as possible, so we might use blizzard flakes, skiing surface, ice crystals, alpine cover or winter weather. Even simple words such as table or wall have no synonym. A common word such as plastic can’t be described in one word. Synthetic would be correct but the answer could be so many other synthetic materials.

Snowflake

On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that the English language has so many words for one meaning and so few for another. For example, there are bucketfuls of verbs with a disapproving flavour and so many of them start with d - disparage, denigrate, disapprove, diminish, derogate, deprecate, despise, deplore, dislike, demur, dissent, detract, defame, and damn with faint praise ……. the list goes on. The prefixes dis and de generally denote negativity.

For the opposite meaning, or antonym, there’s no shortage of words, and they often start with a - approve, admire, appreciate, applaud, advocate, acclaim, accept, assent, award the palm.

Happy Puzzling - or maybe Merry Solving!

Christine Lovatt

18 Responses to

Synonomous with?

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said:
May 23, 2013 at 5:14 PM

I love that English has such a plethora of words with similar but slightly different meanings. I love the challenge to put something 'in the right words' that truly expresses what I think.

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pdiaco said:
May 24, 2013 at 8:06 AM

I love the Funk and Wagnalls Standard English Dictionary for it's thorough detailed explanations of the subtle differences between the many synonyms that can exist for a word. Unfortunately the F&W is no longer in print and I'm seriously thinking of scanning 1500 A3 pages so that I always have this great reference to supplement my digital dictionaries.

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May 24, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Choosing the right words is certainly an art. I have friends who call me when they are stuck for how to phrase something for the intention. The context adds even more meaning. Is polymer a word for plastic? The challenge is that we say plastic when we may mean a variety of other oil based compounds of varying types and qualities.

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mommyscat said:
May 24, 2013 at 10:48 AM

well there you go I thought lucifer meant The Devil but according to trivia quiz it means morning star. You learn something new every day.

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nan_j said:
May 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM

... and so did I scat.

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neil46 said:
May 24, 2013 at 3:55 PM

Lucifer means both devil and Venus(morning star) It was also a term for matches

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falcon8 said:
May 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Choosing the best words to express the ideas you want to get across can be very important. My fellow community committee members get very frustrated with me as I agonise over choosing the 'correct wording' on grant applications. I can justify the time spent because I have found that subtle changes in a sentence (both words and word order) can mean the difference between a successful application and another "sorry your application has failed to make it throught this round. Please try again".

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Pippa2 said:
May 25, 2013 at 11:10 AM

How do you spell synonymous or synonomous. On the home page the intro to this article has it with only 1 y. It came up in trivia the other day and we had some discussion.

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said:
May 25, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Ironically, there is no one word synonym for "thesaurus"

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said:
May 25, 2013 at 9:03 PM

To add to the subject, why is "abrevation" such a long word? And what is its shortest synonym?

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pdiaco said:
May 26, 2013 at 7:46 AM

k88, the shortest synonym for "abrevation" is "typo".

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elmo7 said:
May 26, 2013 at 8:14 PM

Hehe... pdiaco

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said:
May 26, 2013 at 10:18 PM

OK so I made a typo. Might have been something to do with the lack of sleep due to "Youplayaholicism" - New word. Should be added to the thesaurus as a synonym for "insomnia"

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said:
May 27, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Pdiaco, you are sharp. And funny too! Don't worry K88, we all make typos. And YouPlay is certainly addictive.

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said:
May 27, 2013 at 2:47 PM

I am new to this. It's wonderful. I'm learning a lot and am having great fun. Oh yeah, it is very addicting!

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spoggy said:
May 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM

he WOUND the dressing around the WOUND and remembered the PAIN as the window PANE shattered over his hand . TEARS come to his eyes as he TEARS off more strips of dressing. i'snt english wonderful ???? ehhehehh

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said:
May 28, 2013 at 5:29 PM

oh elmo

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mommyscat said:
May 29, 2013 at 12:44 PM

what about this one ghoti=fish. you take the gh from enough for the f, the o from women for the i, and the ti from interruption for the sh.