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lexical relations
lexical relations

Welcome to the second article in our series uncovering the secrets of semantic SEO.

In the preceding article titled Introducing Semantics, the focus is on the foundational aspects of semantics in language, discussing its definitions, importance, and the distinction between conceptual and associative meanings.

These fundamentals include disambiguating entities, enriching content with conceptual and associative meanings, structuring content for semantic richness, incorporating semantic variability, and answering user queries with depth. Each strategy is designed to enhance search relevance, user engagement, and overall SEO performance by integrating semantic concepts into website content.

This essay aims to unveil the ties that bind words together and how such ties provide invaluable insights into the structure of meaning in semantics. You may visit Essay No.1 to learn about

In the vast language landscape, words are not isolated entities. Also, their meanings are intricately interconnected through a web of relationships (The types of meaning can be reached through Thus, it is crucial to understand how words relate to one another and how such relationships contribute to deciphering the rich tapestry of meaning that language weaves.

So we will embark on exploring the lexical relations in the English Language such as synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy, homonymy, polysemy, metonymy etc.

Lexical Relations

Lexical relations refer to the relationships between words or lexical items within a language. These relations help us understand how words are connected and provide insights into their meanings, usage, and associations. Some common types of lexical relations include:


Two or more words with very closely related meanings are called synonyms. They can often, though not always, be substituted for each other in sentences.

Examples of synonymy:

Word Synonym
almost nearly 
big large
broad wide
buy purchase
cab taxi
car automobile
freedom liberty


However, there are many occasions when one word is appropriate in a sentence, but its synonym would be odd.


For example, whereas the words “answer”  and “ reply” are synonyms, one fits in a sentence, while the other doesn’t.

•    John  had only one answer correct on the test. yes
•    *John  had only one reply correct on the test. no

 Also, at the sentence level, synonymous forms may also differ in terms of formal versus informal uses.

For example:
•    My father purchased a large automobile.
•    My dad bought a big car.
Both sentences have the same meaning with four synonymous replacements,
but the second version sounds much more casual or informal than the first.


Antonyms are two forms with opposite meanings.

Examples of antonymy

Word Antonym Type of Antonym
alive dead non-gradable
big small gradable
fast slow gradable
happy sad gradable
hot cold gradable
long short gradable
male female non-gradable
married single non-gradable
rich poor gradable
true false non-gradable


Antonyms are usually divided into two main types, “gradable” (opposites along a scale) and “non-gradable” (also called “complementary pairs”)


Gradable antonyms can be used in comparative or they can be preceded by the adverb “very”, while non-gradable antonyms can’t.

Examples of gradable antonyms:

Gradable Non-Gradable "Comparative/ Very" Test
hot/cold male/female very hot/ hotteryes *very male/ *malerno
rich/poor alive/dead very rich/ richeryes *very dead/ *deaderno


When the meaning of one form is included in the meaning of another, the relationship is described as hyponymy.

Examples of hyponymy:
- animal/horse
- insect/ant
- flower/ rose
- fruit/apple
- vegetable/ potato

We can say that “horse” is a hyponym of  “animal” and  “ant” is a
hyponym of “insect.” In these two examples, “animal” and “insect” are called superordinate/ hypernym  (a higher level) terms. We can also say that two or more words that share the same superordinate term are co-hyponyms

More Examples of hyponymy:

  • animal/dog: ( the word “dog” is a hyponym of “animal”), while the word “animal” is a superordinate /hypernym of “dog
  • vegetable/carrot: ( the word “carrot” is a hyponym of “vegetable”), while

the word “vegetable” is a superordinate / hypernym of “carrot


The diagram below is self-evident


Homophones are two or more words that are different in spelling and meaning, but have the same pronunciation.
Common English “Homophones” are:

Bare Bear


Flour Flower
Pail Pale
Right Write
Week Weak
See Sea





We use the term homonyms when one form (written or spoken) has two or more unrelated meanings, as in examples below:

Examples of homonyms

Bat (flying Creature) Bat(used in baseball)
mole (on skin/ face)  mole (a small thorny animal) 
bank  (a financial institution) bank ( a river side)
pen (a writing instrument) pen (an enclosed space for animals) 






When we encounter two or more words with the same form and related meanings, we have what is known as polysemy.

The relatedness of meaning found in polysemy is essentially based on similarity. The head of a company is similar to the head of a person on top of and controlling the body. 

Examples  of Polysemy

  • object on top of your body
  • at the top of a company or department
  • of a person
  • of a mountain
  • of a bed
  • of a document
  • of a person  
  •  of a river
  • of a cave





There is another type of relationship between words, based simply on a close connection in everyday experience. 

That close connection can be based on: 
•    a container–contents relation (bottle/water, can/juice)
•    a whole–part relation (car/ wheels, house/roof) 
•    a representative–symbol relation (king/crown, the USA President/ the White House). 

Using one of these words to refer to the other is an example of metonymy.
It is our familiarity with metonymy that makes it possible for us to understand.
He drank the whole bottle, although it sounds absurd literally (i.e. he drank the liquid, not the glass object). 

We also accept The White House has announced . . . or Downing Street protested. . . without being puzzled that buildings appear to be talking. 
We use metonymy when we talk about:
•    filling up the car ( the tank, not the car)
•    answering the door ( the person, not the door)
•    boiling a kettle ( the water, not the kettle)
•    giving someone a hand ( help, not a hand)


We all know which words tend to occur with other words. If you ask a thousand people what they think of when you say hammer, more than half will say nail. If you say table, they’ll mostly say chair, and butter elicits bread, needle elicits thread and salt elicits pepper. 

Examaple of Collocations

Nail and hammer
Table  and chair
Bread and butter
Needle and thread
Salt and pepper
Cause and effect


More Examples of Collocations


We say We don't say

fast cars

fast food

quick cars

quick food

a quick glance

a quick meal

a fast glance

a fast meal


How to use lexical relations to improve search engine ranking?

Keyword Optimization:Analyze top-ranking pages for your target keywords. Identify the keywords and phrases that they commonly use. Incorporate these relevant keywords into your content naturally.Use synonyms, related terms and Hyponyms to improve the richness of your content. Search engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated in understanding context, so including synonyms can help your page rank for a broader range of queries.

Use Defined Term Structured Data to Disambiguate Your Entities: When using a defined term, it's important to include the name, alternate name, description, and 'sameAs' property. For 'sameAs,' include a link to Wikipedia or Wikidata for the term.

Employ more than one type of structured data to define your primary entity: For instance, although a Service schema doesn't directly result in a rich snippet, combining it with a Product schema and adding an offer with a price to it can make it elgible for rich snippets in addition to enhancing visibility. This is achieved by assigning the same "@Id" to both the Product and Service schemas, effectively merging them into a single entity in the eyes of search engines. Schemantra allows the user to add an ID when building the schema.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): LSI keywords are terms or phrases related to the main topic and they are not a ranking factor. However, Including LSI keywords can help search engines better understand the context of your content and improve rankings. Tools like Google's Keyword Planner can help you discover LSI keywords.


George Yule (2014) The Study of Language (5th edition) Cambridge University Press

Hurford, J., B. Heasley and M. Smith (2007) Semantics: A Coursebook (2nd edition) Cambridge University Press

What is a collocation




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