Vocabulary: Word Relationships
Synonyms, Antonyms, Homonyms, Analogies
In some ways words are like families. Just as there are different relationships among members of the same family, there are different relationships among words. Picture your own family. You probably have relatives who like to do the same things you do. But they may look nothing like you. You may have relatives who are from another city. They might have unusual accents and all "sound alike." There are probably still others who are rebels. They always want the opposite of what everyone else in the family wants.
There are similar relationships between words. Words that mean the same thing but look different are called synonyms. Their meanings are very similar (e.g., pretty/cute). An antonym is a word that has the opposite meaning of another word (e.g., pretty/ugly). A homonym is a word that sounds like another word but has a different meaning (e.g., there/their).
Because these terms are often confused, here is an easy way to keep them straight.
|Heard alike||Same meaning||An opposite|
Words are related in many other ways as well. When thinking about the relationship between two words, you must examine those words for ways in which they are different, alike, or related to each other.
Understanding how words fit together helps you expand and network frameworks. As an active reader, this skill enables you to analyze and synthesize information. Such knowledge is useful in building your vocabulary. This, in turn, gives you more skill in using the context (see figure below).
For the term "weak" when used as in “a weak person,” some synonyms are: fragile, feeble, frail, spiritless, antonyms include: robust, muscular, brawny, powerful, and a homonym is “week.”
For the term "weak" when used as in “a weak object,” some synonyms are: fragile, unsound, flimsy, pointless, pliant, antonyms include: solid, strong, fortified, and “week” is again a homonym.