Is there such a thing as a true synonym?

Thesauruses present a catalog of synonyms from which we may pick and choose words to put into our writing, but a thesaurus used alone is a very bad thing because there is no such thing as a true synonym. Every word has its particular place in the language.

To present a group of words that allegedly say the same thing, as one finds in thesauruses, and then grab one word and insert it into a sentence because one thinks it to be synonymous with the other word… well, one can easily choose the wrong term. It is easy to ignore the subtle differences, but this can make for sloppy use of the language. In looking at a Roget-type thesaurus, a close examination of the clusters will make the user aware of the fine distinctions between synonyms, but the user will soon recognize that few words are exactly interchangeable. The thesaurus should be used in conjunction with a good dictionary whenever a selected word or phrase is unfamiliar. There really is no such thing as a true synonym. Even though the meanings of two words may be the same or nearly the same, they almost never are the same in connotation, distribution, and frequency. “House” and “home” may be offered as synonyms for each other, but we all know that they are not the same.


  1. Future Sailor Blanchard -  June 3, 2016 - 7:57 am

    You canker blossom!

    This flowery barb is delivered by the newly lovelorn Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream after her beloved, Lysander, expresses his disinterest in her—a shift attributable to Puck’s mischievous interloping. Incensed at his change of heart, Hermia fires the following line at Lysander’s new object of affection, Helena: “O me! You juggler! You canker blossom! You thief of love!”

    The earliest sense of the word canker was “something that corrodes, corrupts, destroys, or irritates.” Around the mid-1400s, people began using it in an extended sense to refer to a caterpillar or worm that attacks plants and preys on flower buds. Thus, when Hermia calls Helena a canker blossom, she is likening her to one of these pernicious creatures who destroys flowers, and by metaphorical extension, suggests that Helena is a creature who, as evidenced by her theft of Lysander’s love, destroys or corrupts beauty and goodness.

  2. Gary -  May 28, 2016 - 3:36 pm

    “Fall” and “autumn” are synonyms as are specialized technical words such as “hives” and “urticaria”

  3. julissa garza -  May 27, 2016 - 8:26 am


    • Rico -  May 27, 2016 - 9:26 am

      wassup @jullissa

    • Rico -  May 27, 2016 - 9:26 am

      whos from shoreline?

  4. anthony rdz -  April 29, 2016 - 6:44 am

    Yes one giant

  5. Emma Carter -  April 8, 2016 - 6:01 am

    IDC about your nonsense, so why do you keep posting about this idiotic thing of COURSE there are no true synonyms. DUH! Everybody knows that

    • Robert -  April 10, 2016 - 11:31 pm


      Have you ever thought that some of us are here for the first time? Although I never gave this a second thought.

      • Annonymous -  April 27, 2016 - 5:47 am

        Yeah Emma why are you so rude?

        • Cahito -  April 28, 2016 - 2:32 pm

          And remember, there are a lot of non-english speakers that use this tool to learn and improve their english!

    • one giant -  April 29, 2016 - 6:43 am

      wow people type here ONE GIANT

    • adam -  May 20, 2016 - 10:26 am

      flammable and inflammable

      • Anonymous -  September 27, 2016 - 11:38 am

        Very close, but I’d say the connotation is slightly different. “Flammable” I think is a lot more basic and common usage, whereas “inflammable” has ties to “inflame” which is both much more dramatic and more versatile.

        In conclusion, I’d say flammable is a lot more common and normal, while inflammable is more dramatic and easier to use in a poetic sense, metaphor, etc.


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top