In lexical semantics, opposites are words that lie in an inherently incompatible binary relationship as in the opposite pairs male : female, long : short, up : down, and precede : follow. The notion of incompatibility here refers to fact that one word in an opposite pair entails that it is not the other pair member. For example, something that is long entails that it is not short. It is referred to as a 'binary' relationship because there are two members in a set of opposites. The relationship between opposites is known as opposition. A member of a pair of opposites can generally be determined by the question What is the opposite of X ?
The term antonym (and the related antonymy) has also been commonly used as a term that is synonymous with opposite; however, the term also has other more restricted meanings. One usage has antonym referring to both gradable opposites, such as long : short, and (non-gradable) complementary opposites, such as male : female, while opposites of the types up : down and precede : follow are excluded from the definition. A third usage (particularly that of the influential
For the purposes of this article (see introduction), antonyms, from the Greek anti ("opposite") and onoma ("name") are gradable opposites. Gradable opposites lie at opposite ends of a continuous spectrum of meanings; examples are hot and cold, slow and fast, and fat and skinny. Words may have several different antonyms, depending on the meaning: both long and tall can be antonyms of short.
Opposites are interestingly simultaneously different and similar in meaning, Typically, they differ in only one dimension of meaning, but are similar in most other respects, including similarity in grammar and positions of semantic abnormality. Additionally, not all words have an opposite. Some words are non-opposable. For example, the word platypus has no word that stands in ops3osition to it (hence, the un answerability of What is the opposite of platypus?). The main reason is that animal or plant species have no binary opposites (other than possible gender opposites such as lion/lioness, etc.). Other, words are opposable but have an accidental gap in a given language's lexicon. For example, the word devout lacks a lexical opposite, but it is fairly easy to conceptualize a parameter of devoutness where devout lies at the positive pole with a missing member at the negative pole.
Opposites may be viewed as a special type of incompatibility. Words that are incompatible create the following type of entailment (where X is a given word and Visa different word incompatible with word
sentence A is X entails sentence A is not Y
An example of an incompatible pair of words is cat : dog :
It's a cat entails It's not a dog
This incompatibility is also found in the opposite pairs fast: slow and stationary : moving, as can be seen below :
It's fast entails It's hot slow
It's stationary entails It's not moving
Complementary opposites are pairs that express absolute opposites, like mortal and immortal.
SynonymsSynonyms are different words (or sometimes phrases) with identical or very similar meanings. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy. The word comes from Ancient Greek syn (σύν) ("with") and onoma (ὄνομα) ("name"). The words car and automobile are synonyms. Similarly, if we talk about a long time or an extended time, long and extended become synonyms. In the figurative sense, two words are often said to be synonymous if they have the same connotation:
"a widespread impression that …Synonyms can be any part of speech (e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or prepositions), as long as both members of the pair are the same part of speech. More examples of English synonyms are:
was synonymous with immorality" (Doris Kearns Goodwin) Hollywood
- student and pupil (noun)
- petty crime and misdemeanor (noun)
- buy and purchase (verb)
- sick and ill (adjective)
- quickly and speedily (adverb)
- on and upon (preposition)
In English many synonyms evolved from a mixture of Norman French and English words, often with some words associated with the Saxon countryside ("folk", "freedom") and synonyms with the Norman nobility ("people", "liberty").
Some lexicographers claim that no synonyms have exactly the same meaning (in all contexts or social levels of language) because etymology, orthography, phonic qualities, ambiguous meanings, usage, etc. make them unique. Different words that are similar in meaning usually differ for a reason: feline is more formal than cat; long and extended are only synonyms in one usage and not in others (for example, a long arm is not the same as an extended arm). Synonyms are also a source of euphemisms.
The purpose of a thesaurus is to offer the user a listing of similar or related words; these are often, but not always, synonyms.
In general, we can break synonymy down into three categories, varying by degree.
§ Absolute synonymy
Two words word are defined as being absolutely synonymous if they are equinormal for all contexts. This means that for every context where Word A is perfectly acceptable, Word B is as well. Similarly, whenever Word A seems a bit strange or out of place, Word B must be equally out of place. In practice, almost no such pairs exist in normal language. Here are some examples that highlight the difficulty in finding words which are absolutely synonymous:
Little Billy was so brave at the dentist's today.
Little Billy was so courageous at the dentist's today
Calm : placid
She was quite calm just a few minutes ago.
She was quite placid just a few minutes ago.
Inevitably it seems, we can find contexts where one of the words seems slightly inappropriate or slightly out of place, though JudyT points out that furze and gorse may as bolutely synonymous. In general, Absolute Synonymy is only really useful as a conceptual reference
§ Propositional Synonymy
Two words are propositionally synonymous if they can be used in any truth functional expression and not change the value of the sentence.
Sally took the can from the box.
Sally took the tin from the box.
Alex plays the violin
Alex plays the fiddle.
In a sentence like "Alex plays the fiddle in the orchestra" the use of 'fiddle' (a word which in this context typically is only used by professionals) preserves the truth value for the sentence and so is appropriate for propositional synonymy.
Differences in propositional synonymy typically are either of style, field of discourse, or in expressive meaning. In "the patient broke his shin" and "the patient broke his fibula", the difference comes from the field of discourse.
§ Near Synonymy
Essentially every synonymous word pairing that is neither of the two above. While the distinction between propositional synonymy and near synonymy is clear at least in theory, the line between near synonymy and non-synonymy is very difficult to draw formally. Fortunately, speakers seem to know intuitively whether terms are synonymous, even though we cannot formulate a specific definition.