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Among the myriad facets of semantics, one aspect that captivates linguists and language enthusiasts alike is the notion of similarity in senses. There are various kinds of relationships between word senses. Such senses may be identical, similar, or different. The same fact is true about sentence senses. In this essay, we embark on a fascinating journey through the dimensions of synonymy, paraphrase, and hyponymy.—three key avenues where similarity in senses manifests itself in language.


Synonymy is the identity of the senses of two words or more.  (Two or more words (NOT sentences) have the same or similar meaning.)
 Synonymy is mutual (big = large and large = big) (See Essay No. 2 on Lexical Relations)


  • big and huge” are synonyms
  • huge and large” are synonyms
  • big, huge, large and gigantic” are synonyms 
  • bright , clever, intelligent, keen, smart” are synonyms

Testing Synonymy

The  best way to test synonymy is “replacement.” If a word can replace another without changing the sentence meaning, they are synonyms.


1. He is a courageous soldier.
2. He is a brave soldier.
No change in meaning, so courageous  and brave are synonyms.
If you want to use  the symbol (=) , the relationship can be symbolized like this: courageous= brave.

Examples for complete synonymy:

  • This is a big building: OK
  • This is a large building: OK

Examples of partial synonymy:

  • I like deep thinking: OK
  • I like profound thinking: OK
  • I like deep rivers: OK
  • I like profound rivers: X

Synonymy is dependent on the basic meaning of the words regardless of psychological or stylistic meanings.
For example: “father” and “male parent” are synonyms because their basic meaning is identical, while their psychological meanings are different, with more emotion attached to the word “ father”.

Grammatical categories

Usually synonyms belong to the same part of speech

  • clever= bright  (Adj.)
  • cleverly= brightly ( Adv.)
  • cleverness= brightness ( N.)

However, synonyms may belong to other parts of speech.


  • cleverness (N.) = to be bright ( Infintive.)
  • foolish  (Adj.)= a fool (N.)
  • afraid (Adj.)   = fear ( V.)


  • If two words  are identical or similar in sense, they are called synonyms.
  • If two sentences are identical in sense, they are called paraphrases.

Types of Paraphrasing :

1.   Synonymy Paraphrasing: Two sentences are identical in all words except two synonyms in the same place.

  • This is a bent wire.
  • This is a twisted wire.
  • He did his homework very quickly.
  • He did his homework very speedily.

2. Transformation Paraphrasing (Changing the structure without changing the meaning)

  • Ali is Hani’s father.
  • Hani is Ali’s son.
  • The boy broke the window.
  • The window was broken by the boy.
  • The boy was the one who broke the window.
  • John is the manager.
  • The manager is John.


When the meaning of one form is included in the other form, the relationship is known as Hyponymy. The meaning of a more specific word ( like “ lion”)  is included in that of another more general word ( like “animal”) .

For example:

  • lion/ animal
  • orange/ fruit
  • brother/ relative

Lion is a hyponym of animal, and animal is a superordinate of lion.
Hyponymy requires two words ( phrases), one of which is a hyponym and the other is a superordinate (or hypernym)

The diagrams below are self-explanatory.

hyponymy for cook


hyponymy for color

To sum up, the exploration of synonymy, paraphrase, and hyponymy reveals the intricate nature of language and its capacity for nuance and precision. Synonymy, while seemingly straightforward, can often be elusive, as true synonyms are rare due to variations in connotation and usage. Paraphrase, on the other hand, offers a valuable tool for rephrasing and clarifying expressions, highlighting the versatility of language. Hyponymy showcases the hierarchical structure of language, demonstrating how words are interconnected through broader and more specific categories.


  • Hurford, J., B. Heasley and M. Smith (2007) Semantics: a coursebook (2nd edition) Cambridge University Press
  • George Yule (2014) The Study of Language (5th edition) Cambridge University Press
  • Alkhuli, M.A., An Introduction to Semantics ( 2008) Dar AlFalah, Jordan




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    I think this information is fantastic. I am doing allot of Semantic SEO all manually with some AI to assist. But I was thinking there needed to be a tool(s) since the scope of work to manually do all this is overwhelming. Keep it up!

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