- Antonyms, synonyms, and homonyms are three sources of concern in classrooms. They can be confusing, and it's good to get a hang of them early.
- Every year in school, students will hear about these three groups of words, but the sooner they get clear on them, the sooner they can use them.
Interrelationships of Words
- When you're learning words, there can't help but be spots where things get a little murky. English vocabulary is especially full of pitfalls since the language is so vast. In English, there are several words that share one meaning or nuances of one meaning.
- Then there are tiny words like "set" and "get" that have so many meanings that their definitions take up multiple dictionary pages. Then, just to make it more daunting, the English language has over a million words. As far as word banks, English is massive.
- But don't let the enormousness of the language turn you off. Homonyms, antonyms, and synonyms can be used to learn new words and add a great deal to your diction and the way you talk about language in particular.
- Knowing what words are similar or opposites help people to understand the same when it comes to ideas. Ideas are impossible without words, and words are impossible without ideas. The more you think about the interrelationships of one, the better you are able to think about the interrelationships of the other.
- Antonyms are words that mean the opposite of other words. The antonym of big is small, for example. Pretty easy, right? Well, slow down there, there's something to be learned in this.
- English lets its speakers make their own antonyms just by adding a prefix. The ability to make up one's own words and have them be real words is something truly lovable about English.
- Mis, dis, dys, mal, in, and un are all prefixes one can affix to words to create antonyms.
(i) Official becomes unofficial.
(ii) Flexible becomes inflexible.
(iii) Adroit becomes maladroit.
(iv) Functional becomes dysfunctional.
(v) Peptic becomes dyspeptic.
(vi) Philanthropist becomes misanthropist.
Careful: changing prefixes doesn't always work, like flammable and inflammable pretty much mean the same thing––they're synonyms––but usually prefix juggling works like water on fire.
Try yourself:Find the Antonym of Relinquish.
The meaning of relinquish is to stop having or doing something. Its antonyms are possess, keep or retain.
Try yourself:Find the antonym for Evasive.
Synonyms are words that share meanings with other words. There are many reasons why synonyms are great. Here are three:
(i) They make it possible for writers to create a mood with the nuances of their vocabularies. "Walk" is different from "saunter," and "drink" is different from "guzzle." The differences are in the mind, and when a writer is trying to paint a picture in a reader's mind, those differences can make or break a writer's prose.
(ii) They give writers more rhythmic tools. "Absquatulate" means the same thing as "abscond," but they are rhythmically very different. Every serious writer thinks about the rhythm of what he or she produces. Synonyms give writers more control over that rhythm.
(iii) They sound fancy. A little of this goes a long way, like using "utilize" for "use," but sometimes knowing a better-sounding word makes you sound intelligent. If you don't use fancy synonyms, you should at least be able to know when someone else is. Certain people use argot that isn't immediately understandable, but if you know a lot of synonyms, you will never be lost. Plus, if someone fails to comprehend your own jargon, you can use a synonym they know to get your point across. In writing, you can work on tone by saying "discharging a firearm" instead of "firing a gun" or "disenfranchised youths" for "kids without voices."
Try yourself:Find the synonym for Adversity.
Adversity is a very difficult or unfavourable situation.
Try yourself:Find the synonym for Indict.
Meanings: formally accuse of a crime (Law); accuse, charge, criticize
- Homonyms are words that are pronounced the same as each other (e.g., "maid" and "made") or have the same spelling (e.g., "lead weight" and "to lead").
When homonyms have the same sound, they are called "homophones."
- When they have the same spelling, they are called "homographs." (Homographs with different sounds (e.g., "tear drop" and "to tear a hole") are called "heteronyms.")
Therefore, it is possible for a homonym to be a homophone (same sound) and a homograph (same spelling), e.g., "vampire bat" and "cricket bat".
(i) pike (the fish) and pike (the weapon)
(These homonyms are homographs - they have the same spelling.)
(ii) bear (the animal) and bare (no clothes)
(These homonyms are homophones - they have different spellings but the same sound.)
(iii) site (a location), sight (vision), and cite (to quote)
(These homonyms are homophones.)
- Atmosphere - the gases surrounding the earth / the mood of a situation
- Bail - to clear out water / to release a prisoner
- Band - a ring, sometimes symbolizing eternity / a musical group
- Beat - to overcome something / to feel exhausted
- Capital - the chief city of a state / a crime punishable by death
- Cleave - to split or sever / to adhere to
- Dive - to go down quickly / an unpleasant place
- Employ - to put into use / to hire someone for a job
- File - to store computer data / to make a formal request
- Fine - being of high quality/sum of money used as a penalty
- Grave - something very serious / a place to bury the dead
- Hide - to keep something secret / the skin of an animal
- Iron - to press or smooth/silvery-grey metal
- Jade - a hard, greenstone / a hardened or bad-tempered woman
- Lark - a small bird/something done for fun
- Objective - not being influenced by prejudice / the lens of a microscope or camera
- Plaque - an ornamental plate or slab that commemorates a person or event / a deposit on teeth prone to bacteria
- Refrain - to stop oneself from doing something / a repeated line in music or poetry
- Reticule - at a distance or disconnected / an unlikely possibility
- Tender - sensitive or painful to the touch / soft food i.e. a chicken tender
Knowing antonyms, synonyms and homonyms will certainly expand our vocabulary; but, they can also be very confusing if the wrong word is written or spoken.