Synonyms and Antonyms English Grammar

What are Synonyms?

Synonyms are words which are used as substitutes for other words. Sometimes, synonyms need not mean exactly the same as the other word. They can also be a close substitute which means they can mean nearly the same as the other word. 

Synonyms can belong to any word category:

CategoryWordSynonymSynonym
NounParamourLoverBeau
AdjectivePleasingAlluringFetching
VerbScanSwindleDeceive
AdverbCandidlyBlatantlyFlagrantly

English is a language that has multiple influences. The socio-political history of England has helped shape the language into what it is today.

Imperialism also had a big impact on the English language since the British took home new words from the countries they had colonised. Today, we have in English, words originating in Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic and other colonial languages.

It also has words that have originated in French, Spanish, German and Italian.

WordMeaningLanguage of Origin
KetchupA condimentChinese
Gung-hoEnthusiasticChinese
TycoonAn industrialistChinese
GunnyA sackSanskrit
JuggernautAn unstoppable objectSanskrit
MahoutElephant riderSanskrit
AlcoholAn intoxicantArabic
MagazineStorageArabic
ZenithHighest pointArabic
GaffeMistakeFrench
RiposteA sharp replyFrench
MacabreGruesomeFrench
IncommunicadoNot communicatingSpanish
BonanzaA profit, a rich findSpanish
ArmadaFleet of shipsSpanish
BravuraAn act of braveryItalian
ImbroglioA big quarrelItalian
VirtuosoSomeone who is skilledItalian

Usage of Synonyms

Synonyms are used for the purpose of bringing variety in language. Apart from this, synonyms are also used to match the register and the mode of communication.

NeutralFormalInformal
BuyPurchaseGet
CompleteExhaustiveWhole-hog
TVTelevisionTelly
ChildrenOffspringKids
CriminalsOffendersCrooks
StupidImbecileDumb
Tired ofDissatisfiedSick of
ParentsProgenitorsFolks

Synonyms are also used to distinguish speech from writing. Some words are preferable in writing, while some sound better in speech. Often, one reserves formal and sophisticated words for writing and casual words for speech.

WritingSpeech
SubsequentlyLater
Alas!Oh no!
In sumTo sum up
Awe-inspiringAwesome
RecalibratedMeasured again
For (conjunction)Because (conjunction)

Synonyms are also used to replace the archaic or obsolete words in the English language.

Archaic WordModern Counterpart
BehoveResponsibility
BrimstoneSulphur
DispraiseCriticise
HandmaidFemale servant
MeatAny type of food
ScaramouchA braggart
WhereforeFor what reason
YonderOver there
SmiteConquer
SaturnismLead poisoning
RedeAdvice

Sometimes, a word does not do justice to the emotion behind it. The tone or the emotion behind a person’s voice can also dictate which word has to be used.

  • Mayuri was annoyed by the hotel staff‘s delay in the order.
  • Mayuri was indignant at the hotel staff’s misbehaviour. 

The words annoyed and indignant are synonyms. However, indignant is more intense and forceful than annoyed. A simple delay may make the subject annoyed, but misbehaviour is bound to cause indignation.

What are Antonyms?

In contrast with synonyms, antonyms are words which are opposite in meaning to the other. This may sound strange, but often, to understand a word better, we have to look at its antonym.

We learn the meaning of the word by understanding how it contrasts with its antonym.

Like synonyms, there can be more than one antonym for a given word.

CategoryWordAntonymAntonym
Nounallyfoedetractor
Adjectiveboldlily-liveredcowardly
Verbsanctifydesecrateravage
Adverbcompletelyinadequatelypartially

Types of Antonyms

There are three types of antonyms:

Gradable antonyms

  • Complementary antonyms
  • Relational antonyms

Gradable Antonyms

Gradable antonyms are words which are the extreme opposites of each other. Imagine a spectrum or a scale. Gradable antonyms will be at equal distances from the centre on the scale.  However, these words may have a spectrum of words between them. All these words may exist together on the same scale.

Gradable Antonyms

In the above example, Horrible is the polar opposite of the word Excellent. But together, they exist on the same spectrum as Bad, Mediocre and Good.

Each word on the spectrum is an antonym of the other. For example, the word Good is the antonym of Horrible, Bad, Mediocre and Excellent

lovinghatefulconfidentoverconfidentblackwhite
virtuousimpiousancientmodernbillionairepauper

Complementary Antonyms

Unlike gradable antonyms which have a spectrum of words between them, complementary antonyms are words which express two extreme ideas without the possibility of ‘middle’ words.

They do not lie on a continuous scale and are the exact opposites of each other.

completeincompleteuniqueordinaryflawlessblemished
deadlivingdrunksoberunlimitedlimited

Relational Antonyms

Relational antonyms are words which are opposite to each other by the virtue of their relationship alone. One finds meaning through the existence of the other.

For example, the word up exists in relation to the word down.

grandparentgrandchildrenemployeeemployerhusbandwife
hostguestpredatorpreyperpetratorvictim
\

Synonyms and Antonyms

Word  Synonym  Antonym 
baffle (v)confuseconfoundpuzzleclarifyexplainenlighten
baleful (adj)deadlysinisterevilfavourablepromisinggood
balk (v)hesitaterefuseresistacceptfacehelp
banal (adj)boringblandmundaneexcitingoriginaluncommon
bedlam (n)confusionchaoshubbubcalmnessorderharmony
benevolent (adj)kindgivingsympatheticcruelmalevolenthateful
cacophony (n)noiseharshnessdiscordeuphonysilencemelody
cadaver (n)corpsedead bodycarcassthe livingliving being
candid (adj)frankhonestdirectbiaseddishonestlying
cantankerous (adj)angrycrankysnappycheerfulpleasantfriendly
charlatan (n)fraudcon mancheatthe honestthe genuinethe frank
clumsy (adj)awkwardbulkyineptexpertdexterousadept
colossal (adj)gigantichugelargeminisculetinymicroscopic
dapper (adj)stylishclassyprimuntidyplainshabby
detriment (n)lossdisabilityharmadvantageaidblessing
dilettante (n)rookieamateurdabblerveteranexperiencedexpert
decadent (adj)immoraldegradedevilpuregoodmoral
dolorous (adj)sadmournfulpainfulcheeryhappypositive
dubious (adj)doubtfuluncertainambiguouscertainclearsure
eccentric (adj)quirkycrazybizarrecommonsimpleconventional
effervescent (adj)spiritedbubblyenthusiasticflatdullstale
egregious (adj)horriblebadintolerablegoodpleasantmild
eloquence (n)expressiveorationarticulationmutenessdullnesstacit
emancipate (v)freeliberatereleasebindimprisondetain
fabricate (v)fakeconcoctinventtell truth
fallacy (n)falsehooduntruthdeceittruthaccuracyfact
fetching (adj)attractivebeautifulprettyuglyawfulhideous
flamboyant (adj)showycolourfulflashydullplainmodest
frail (adj)delicatefragiledaintystrongcallousedsolid
frivolous (adj)pettyshallowchildishprofounddeepwise
gargantuan (adj)colossalhugelargetinymicroscopicminiscule
gaudy (adj)brightloudflashymodestnormalplain
gregarious (adj)friendlysocialaffableunfriendlyantisocialrude
grandeur (n)grandnessopulenceluxuriancesimplicitymodestydullness
habitual (adj)addictedchronicaccustomedtemporaryoccasionalintermittent
halcyon (adj)sereneharmoniouspeacefulchaoticagitatedtroubled
haughty (adj)snobbishegoisticproudhumblemodestshy
heinously (adv)horriblyshockinglybrutallykindlypeacefullymildly
hinder (v)stopobstructimpedeencourageassistaid
hone (v)whetsharpenshapedullexhausttire
iconoclast (n)scepticradicalrebelbelieverfollowerdevotee
idiosyncrasy (n)eccentricitywhimsypeculiaritynormalityregularityroutine
ignominy (n)taintdisgraceblothonouresteemrespect
impair (v)damagehurtweakenaidassiststrengthen
Word  Synonym  Antonym 
jaunty (adj)carefreebreezyjovialmorosedullgloomy
jeer (v)mocktauntridiculepraiseadulatecompliment
jeopardy (n)dangerthreatperilassurancesafetyprotection
jest (n)banterfungagseriousnessgravitysincerity
jettison (v)abandondiscardthrowkeepcherishretain
jovial (adj)happycheerfulsanguinegloomymaudlinlachrymose
keen (adj)interestedardenteagernonchalantapatheticuninterested
kindle (v)igniteburninflameextinguishput outsnuff
laconic (adj)briefsuccincttersewordyverboseprolix
lament (v)grievecomplainbemoanpraiselaudcompliment
lampoon (v)mockridiculejeerflatterpraiseadulate
lethargy (n)apathydisinterestdullnessenergyinterestliveliness
linger (v)stayremainlagmoveleavecontinue
lush (adj)abundantdensegreenbarrendrydead
macabre (adj)brutalfrighteninggrislycharmingpleasantdelightful
magnanimous (adj)generouscharitablebenevolentmeanpettymiserly
maelstrom (n)agitationchaosturbulencecalmharmonypeace
malleable (adj)flexibleadaptablesupplerigidbrittlestiff
moribund (adj)dyingdoomedfadingthrivinglivingflourishing
nadir (n)basebottomlowest pointzenithtopsummit
naive (adj)innocentchildishsimpleartfulawarewise
nebulous (adj)vaguehazymurkybrightclearcertain
Word   Synonym    Antonym 
niche (n)slotcompartmentcornerclosure
nimble (adj)skilledagilelitheawkwardclumsyinept
nonplussed (adj)surprisedbaffledastoundedenlightenedboredcalm
obnoxious (adj)unpleasantrepulsivedisgustingpleasantattractiveagreeable
obfuscate (v)confusebafflecomplicateexplainclarifysimplify
odious (adj)horridvilefoullikeablepleasantdelightful
ominous (adj)threateningdangerousapocalypticencouragingassuringpromising
onerous (adj)difficultlaboriousarduouseasyeffortlesshelpful
opulent (adj)richlavishdecadentimpoverishedmodesteconomical
pacifist (n)placaterappeaserconciliatoragitatorinstigatorradical
paradox (n)contradictionanomalymysterynormalitystandardregularity
peril (n)jeopardydangerthreatsafetyassurancesecurity
pithy (adj)concisetersebriefwordylengthyverbose
pristine (adj)pureunblemishedimmaculateimpurecorruptblemished
quack (n)charlatanfraudphonygenuinesincereTRUE
quaint (adj)old-fashionedfancyattractivecommonnewregular
quantum (n)amountsummeasurewholeentirety
quixotic (adj)fancifulimpracticalunrealisticsensiblepracticalrealistic
raconteur (n)storytelleranecdotistnarratorlisteneraudiencereader
ramification (n)consequencecomplicationeffectcausesourceorigin
rapport (n)agreementvibefriendshipdisagreementcoldnessenmity
rational (adj)practicalsensiblewisecarelesssillyillogical
Word   Synonym   Antonym 
refulgent (adj)brightglowingbrilliantdulldarkblack
sacrosanct (adj)sacredholypiousprofanecorruptsacrilegious
sagacious (adj)wiseintelligentknowingignorantnaivemoronic
savant (n)expertacademicintelligentamateurignorantdimwit
senile (adj)agedancientdecrepitalertyoungsane
scrupulously (adv)carefullymeticulouslyaccuratelycarelesslyprecariouslyrecklessly
sedulously (adv)activelybusilydiligentlyirresolutelyweaklyunyieldingly
tactfully (adv)skilfullycautiouslydeftlyindelicatelystronglyuncarefully
tangible (adj)touchableactualsolidabstractunrealconceptual
tentative (adj)temporaryunsettledad interimcertainconclusivedefinite
timid (adj)fearfulweakbashfulconfidentbravebold
turbid (adj)unclearmuddyambiguousclear
ubiquitous (adj)omnipresentcommonpervasiverarescarceuncommon
ulterior (adj)secrethiddenconcealedopenexpressedknown
unabashed (adj)blatantbrazenaudaciousconcealedsilentsubtle
unassailable (adj)unconquerablepowerfulinviolableweakvulnerabledefenceless
unbridled (adj)uncontrolledunrestraineduncheckedrestrainedsubduedcontrolled
vacuous (adj)stupiddumbmoronicawareintelligentknowing
vain (adj)arrogantboastfulconceitedhumbleshymodest
valour (n)braverycouragegritcowardicetimidityweakness
vanguard (n)leaderpioneerfollowerdisciple
wane (v)dimlessendecreasewaxincreaseexpand
weary (adj)tiredfatiguedlethargicenergeticspiritedbuoyant
xenophobia (n)bigotrybiasprejudicefairnessgood willtolerance
yielding (adj)humblecompliantdocileobstinaterigidinflexible
zeal (n)enthusiasmardoureagernessapathyindifferenceneglect