Understanding Synonyms: Types, Benefits, and Cons of Using Synonyms

Definition of Synonyms – Vocabulary in Indonesian, like vocabulary in any language in the world, is basically interconnected between one word and another. Thus, the basic vocabulary in Indonesian which amounts to more than 100,000 lemmas or entries are also interconnected (Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia Cetakan VII, Edition IV, March 2013). Vocabularies that have the same or similar meaning components are called sense relations, for example the lexeme horse has a meaning relationship with the lexeme animal or the lexeme mango has a meaning relationship with the lexeme fruit (Cruse, 1995).

According to Cruse (1995), there are seven types of meaning relationships between various lexemes in a language, namely synonymy (same meaning), antonymy (opposite meaning), polysemy (clear double meaning), ambiguity (confusing double meaning), hyponymy ( coverage of meaning), homonymy (difference of meaning), and redundancy (redundancy of meaning). In this article, only one thing will be commented on, namely kesinominam.

About synonymy itself in language is word similarity. Without a synonym, language tends to be more rigid and uninteresting. Therefore, it is very important to use synonyms to enrich the expression of stories, facts, and ideas, both in writing and verbally.

Synonyms in Indonesian language lessons are one of the materials that are quite interesting to explore. Because, the similarity of these words can make a sentence look attractive or easy to read. By learning and understanding synonyms, one can have a wealth of diction.

Here is a complete explanation of the meaning, types, benefits, and obstacles of using synonyms.

Definition of Synonyms

Etymologically, the word synonym comes from the Ancient Greek syn (with) and onoma (name). So, synonyms are two or more words that have the same meaning (Cruse, 1995). Meanwhile, Verhaar (1992) says that synonyms are expressions (words, phrases, and sentences) whose meaning is more or less the same as the meaning of other expressions, for example bunga, kembang , and puspa ; die, died, died , and died ; ugly and bad (Karim, 2013).

According to Kridalaksana (1993), if a word can be substituted (replaced) with another word in the same context and the meaning of the context does not change, the two words can be said to be synonymous. Meanwhile, the Indonesian Language Dictionary (KBBI) explains that synonyms are language forms whose meaning is similar or the same as other language forms; muradif; anonymity.

In general, a synonym is a semantic relationship that expresses the similarity of meaning between one word and another. This synonymous relationship is bidirectional. That is, if a word is synonymous, it can be confirmed that the word has the same meaning.

If a unit of speech A is synonymous with a unit of speech B, of course the unit of speech B is synonymous with a unit of speech A. Concretely, if the word ugly is synonymous with the word bad , then the word bad is also synonymous with the word ugly . Another example is the word true is synonymous with the word right , thus the word right is also synonymous with right .

Synonymous relationships are characterized by the ability of two lexemes to replace each other as fillers in a sentence without changing the meaning. Synonyms that do not change the meaning are called absolute synonyms . However, absolute synonyms are rarely found in the language because each word has its own meaning.

If a synonymous word does not have exactly the same meaning, the similarity lies in the content of the information presented. In simple terms, synonyms are also referred to as similar meaning or matching words, while antonyms are also referred to as opposite words.

As Cruse (1995) and other semantic experts said, ” In contemporary linguistics it has become almost axiomatic that complete synonymy does not exist. Each linguistic form has a constant and specific meaning. If the forms are phonemically different we suppose that their meanings are different. We suppose that there are no actual synonyms “. Meaning, “In contemporary linguistics there is an axiom that absolute anonymity never exists. Words or expressions that have different phonemic structures are sure to have different meanings. Therefore, there are no words or expressions that are truly synonymous”.

Thus, even though words or expressions that are synonymous have the same meaning, the meaning is not entirely the same (Adelin, 2013). So, words or expressions that are phonemically different, the meaning is also different, even if the difference is only in nuance.

According to Soedjito (1989), synonymy is the same meaning or meaning, or two or more words that have the same meaning. Synonyms are two or more words whose meaning is (1) the same or (2) almost the same or similar, for example two or more words that have the same meaning, namely book – book, ear – ear, can – can, father – father, smart – intelligent , etc. As for two or more words that have almost the same meaning (similar) are all – all – everything; love – love – affection, death – died – death – fall , and so on.

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In the case of the same synonym and similar synonym, Kridalaksana (1993) argues that in Indonesian there is one of two or more words that have a similar meaning, but are not synonyms; for example the words help and help . He called these symptoms as near-synonyms, homonyms, pseudo-synonyms .

Different from the opinion of Verhaar (1992), it is often said that synonymous words have the same meaning, only the forms are different. Verhaar asserted that actually the relationship between synonyms has different nuances and the meaning can be said to be “more or less the same”.

Djajasudarma (1993) states that synonyms are used to express sameness of meaning (sameness of meaning). This can be seen from the fact that the compilers of the dictionary show a number of words that have the same meaning; all are synonymous, or have the same meaning as each other, or the relationship in between words that are similar (considered the same) in meaning. Palmer (1993) then details synonyms as follows.

  • One of the synonyms he said comes from a regional or foreign language, for example konde and sanggul , domicile and residence , worried and restless .
  • Synonyms whose use depends on language rules, for example virgin, girl, and girl ; die, die, and die .
  • Synonyms with different emotive meanings, but the same cognitive meaning, for example statesman and politician; noble and feudal .
  • Synonyms whose use is limited to certain words, for example rotten, stale, rancid, sour, and apek mean the same, namely “bad”, but cannot replace each other.
  • Synonyms whose meanings sometimes overlap, for example spices and spices ; worry, anxiety , and doubt ; real and concrete .

In addition to being called word similarity, synonyms can also be said to be word matches, for example:

  • expert = expert
  • acceleration = acceleration
  • accurate = fair
  • reliable = tough
  • anemia = lack of blood
  • porch = stage
  • antagonist = opposite
  • nullir = abolition
  • application = implementation
  • boga = food
  • bonafide = can be trusted
  • bromocorah = relapse
  • dehydration = loss of body fluids
  • resignation = expiration of term of office
  • dominance = dominance
  • donation = help
  • dose = measure
  • exhibition = show
  • excavation = excavation
  • expansion = expansion
  • extension = extension
  • elaboration = detailed explanation
  • embargo = ban
  • epilogue = closing
  • aesthetics = beauty
  • estimate = estimate
  • ethos = outlook on life
  • fauna = animals
  • phenomenon = reality
  • flora = plants
  • forum = board
  • harmonious = compatible
  • live = live
  • hedonism = indulgence
  • inherent = attached
  • injection = injection
  • insinuation = sarcasm
  • instinct = instinct
  • instructor = trainer
  • interaction = relationship
  • iteration = iteration
  • clarification = explanation
  • climax = high point
  • consensus = agreement
  • conservation = protection
  • correlation = relationship
  • crucial = important
  • manunggal = united
  • mayapada = world
  • mediator = intermediary
  • mystery = secret
  • paradoxical = contrast
  • pioner = pioneer.

Language forms or expressions that have the same meaning can be morpheme with morpheme, word with word, phrase with phrase, and so on.

  • Synonyms of morpheme (free) with morpheme (bound), such as he and -nya .
  • Word-for-word synonyms, such as between dead and died ; bad and ugly ; flowers and puspa , and so on.
  • Synonyms of words with phrases or vice versa, such as die and die ; big head and arrogant .
  • Synonymous phrase with phrase, such as father, mother and parents ; died and passed away to God’s grace .
  • Synonymous sentence with sentence, such as sister kicks the ball and the ball is kicked by sister .


Types of Synonyms

Synonyms are divided into two types, namely general synonyms and context synonyms. Common synonyms are synonyms that have almost the same meaning, but cannot be used interchangeably in the same context. Context synonyms are two words that have almost the same meaning and can be interchanged in the same context without changing the meaning in that context.

Context synonyms are divided into three, namely semirip synonyms, absolute synonyms and selingingku synonyms. Here is the explanation.

  • Similar synonyms are words that can exchange positions with each other in a linguistic context. This exchange is done without changing the meaning in a lexical and structural, especially in the chain of sentences, words, clauses, and phrases of the sentence made.
  • Absolute synonyms are words that can interchange positions or places in any linguistic context without changing the lexical and structural, especially in the chain of sentences, words, clauses, and phrases of the sentence made.
  • Selingkung synonyms are words that can interchange positions or places in a specific linguistic context without changing the lexical and structural.

Benefits of Synonymy in Language

Synonyms are used to change the use of words in certain places so that the words used are varied, so that the sentences built by those words are not boring. Words that are synonymous will be able to animate and concretize the use of a person’s language, so that clear and interesting communication is achieved through language. The language user in that case can choose the most appropriate word to use in order to suit the needs (concept) he wants to convey and suit the situation he is facing.

Take a look at the following examples of the use of the words lilit and belit as well as smart and clever .

  • Until he was old he was always surrounded by debt.
  • Until he was old he was always surrounded by debt.
  • The boy is really intelligent , his study results are always good.
  • The boy is really clever , his study results are always good.
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The two pairs of words are synonymous, but they are not exactly the same. Being surrounded by debt feels that debt is more likely to be resolved, but being surrounded by debt feels more complicated and more difficult to get out of the debt situation. Smart implies the meaning of “clever and agile”, but shrewd is impressed to show the meaning of “smart, but a little bit smart”.

In regards to intimacy there are a few things to note. First, not all words in Indonesian have synonyms, for example the words rice, snow, stone, and yellow do not have synonyms. Second , there are words that are synonymous in their basic form, but not in their form, for example the word true with the word betul , but the word truth is not synonymous with the word coincidence . Third, there are words that do not have synonyms in the basic form, but have synonyms in the derived form, for example the word jemur does not have a synonym, but the word menjerumhas a synonym with drying , and sunbathing is synonymous with hot . Fourth, there are words that do not actually have synonyms. Figurative meanings actually have synonyms, as in the example of the word black , in the actual meaning there is no synonym, but in the figurative sense there are synonyms, namely dark, lewd, bad, and others.

Some Obstacles in the Use of Synonymy

The choice of words or diction is a very important element in speaking, both in written language, such as for composing and in everyday spoken language. The purpose of word choice is for language users to choose words accurately in expressing something. For that, language users can take advantage of the dictionary because the dictionary contains the correct meaning of the word.

As discussed in the previous section, not all synonymous words can replace each other in a sentence and can be used in every occasion. This is due to the presence of one or two components of meaning that are not the same, or their usage in a certain context is not the same, or because the derivation of the word is not the same. For example, the word can be synonymous with the word can , as seen in the sentences he can ride a bicycle and he can ride a bicycle .

However, after being made into a derived word by adding the same suffix to-an, for example, it becomes common and found , it turns out that the meanings are very far apart. In addition, the culture of the language user community, especially related to politeness and taboo issues is an obstacle in the use of synonymous words. In that relationship, according to Lyons (1996:132), a speech is unacceptable for socio-cultural reasons. For example, maybe a speech is classified as taboo or inappropriate socially and culturally, such as die “die” which should pass away “died”.

If someone says die in the sentence (1) His father died last night “his father died last night” may be acceptable to certain listeners, for example because the person saying the death is not the biological son of the deceased father. However, if the die is said by the father’s biological son who died (2) My father died last night , the listener will assume that the son does not know himself and has no respect for his father. So, the speech is considered unacceptable in the culture of that society.

Unacceptable speech (3) My father died last night should be corrected to (3a) My father passed away last night because in certain language communities, the use of die is forbidden to express the meaning of “death” for one’s own family members. However, it does not mean that in that environment the unacceptability of the speech (3) My father died last night becomes meaningless. Unacceptability is more based on social meaning and not based on descriptive meaning (Lyons, 1977:104).

Because there is something that violates the etiquette or cultural norms of local speakers, such sentences are unacceptable. For example, sentence (4) Because it was hit by a flood, the fish in my pond were washed away, leaving two, one girl and one boy, which is unacceptable in normal communication, except in jokes.