What is something that doesn't need context

Find synonyms: "Say another word for ..."

Synonyms are among the most important tools of an author: They should ensure variety in the text, avoid repetition or refine the expression even further. We'll tell you here how you can find synonyms and which pitfalls you should watch out for.

You write a text and suddenly notice: This word has appeared several times. And has the same formulation crept in again? Such a repetition can be distracting or boring to the reader. Of course you want to avoid that, so you just use a synonym if the keyword specifications allow it. After all, synonyms have the same meaning, and that means they can be interchangeably, right? Here you can quickly fall into a trap. The same meaning is not the same - and if you choose the wrong word, the message of your sentence may even change.

What is a synonym?

Scientifically, synonyms belong to the field of semantics, the teaching of meaning. In our case it is about single words. Each word has its own meaning, which is made up of several characteristics. This list of features can even go beyond the mere definition in the Duden.
Synonyms match in a large number of characteristics. This means that two words that are synonymous have the same or very similar meanings. But if you look closely at a comparison, it becomes clear that every word is unique. So there is no one hundred percent agreement. That doesn't always matter, but there is a kind of scale on which a pair of synonyms moves.
A high level of agreement of the characteristics means that both words can in many cases be exchanged without significantly changing the meaning of the whole sentence. The lower the match, the more closely you as a copywriter have to pay attention to whether you can afford to exchange words.
Let's take the features of one as an example River: Bodies of water, large, agitated, natural, enclosed by banks, etc.
flow can't go through Brook or channel be replaced. Streams and canals are also moving bodies of water enclosed by banks. However, a stream is much smaller and a canal is artificially created.
So now it gets complicated: the correspondence of the words cannot be determined in a generally valid way. Two words that are synonymous in one context are not automatically synonymous in any other context. The meaning of a word can change depending on the context.


  1. The discount makes this product a bargain.
  2. The discount makes this product a bargain.


  1. The estate is regulated by a notary.
  2. The Discount is regulated by a notary.

The thesaurus: ruler over the synonyms

A linguistic thesaurus is a collection of linked words that are the same or largely the same in meaning. The term thesaurus comes from the Latin for "safe" and the ancient Greek word thesaurós for "treasure" or "treasure house".
This vocabulary of meaningful and related words has been available in book form for a long time, and is now also available in common text editing programs and as a free online tool. Here you can search for a suitable, alternative formulation with just a few clicks. Synonyms of the word looked up are also listed in the Duden.
You can find a detailed synonym list for every word and a lot of other information about its relationships in the synonym list of the University of Leipzig. The Woxikon is also particularly useful. This tool shows you possible word pairs grouped according to meaning and provides you with several suggestions for each meaning.
The thesaurus usually shows not only synonyms of the source word, but also homonyms. Homonyms are words that are identical in writing and pronunciation, but have clearly different meanings. For every word that you enter or look up in the thesaurus, the homonyms are also displayed with their synonyms. After all, no book or program can judge whether you are looking for synonyms for “locomotion”, “functioning” or “that is possible” when you use the term walk researching.

Differences in parts of speech

You most often need synonyms for words that are intuitively ascribed a clearly imaginable meaning: nouns, verbs and adjectives.


Nouns have the fewest really “good” synonyms. To provide variety, you can use an emergency solution here: Express a rating or opinion with the new word. Then the dog quickly becomes a Mutt or one Fur nose and from the disco Beatschuppen or one Dancing bear.


Verbs are hardly different from nouns: some are similar, but you will look in vain for identical twins. Still, they make it a little easier for us. Many synonymous verbs offer you a more precise description and ensure differentiation. The same applies here: This differentiation makes the meaning more special!
Take the word as an example walk: Here you cannot freely choose from the suggestions of the thesaurus: Words such as marching, striding, strutting, tripping, stilting do not really have the same meaning and yet, according to the thesaurus, they are synonyms. Which verb you use depends on the context. Surely you don't want someone who just crosses the street to trip over there as a substitute in your text.


In the word group of adjectives, it is easier to find suitable synonyms. It's best to use the same trick that you use with verbs. Pick the words that convey the message you want even better. Pretty - beautiful For example: At first glance, they differ less from one another, but if you look closely, you will find the subtle differences.
Works as it is used to beautiful namely more intensely on the reader than pretty. So if you describe a scene as pretty, it probably made less of an impression than one lovely or even breathtaking Backdrop. Similar to verbs, synonymous adjectives provide gradations.


These words are easiest to swap out when synonyms are available. Often it is nuances that mainly affect the quality of the expression and prevent repetition. A preposition can be replaced by synonymous prepositions or extended formulations:
with - by means of, by means of, with the help of

The use of synonyms: when should a word be replaced by a synonym at all?


  • It already appeared too often in the text:

    Repetition can quickly turn an otherwise good text into torture. A word that occurs too often should then be replaced in a well-dispersed manner in the text.

  • The word does not fit perfectly into the sentence / context:

    Especially in the first version there is often a lack of the right expression. In these cases the revision is used to replace "so-well-words" with "to-the-point synonyms".

  • Too close to similar words:

    An exaggerated example: He lives in a comfortable apartment. At least one word should be replaced here: He lives in a cozy apartment.

  • The maximum number of keywords has been exceeded:

    In this case, the repetition annoys not only the reader, but the too search engines.

Find good synonyms

Now you already know when to use synonyms and you know some of the most important stumbling blocks. But what criteria do you use to choose exactly the right word? Here is a short guide to help you choose a suitable synonym:

  • Is the word known to everyone?

    If you find a word in the thesaurus that you did not know before, be careful. After all, the synonym list alone is not enough to know the exact meaning. Do some research before using the unfamiliar word as a synonym. This is the only way you can judge whether it makes sense in context. And if you, as an author, don't know the word, the chances are high that your readers won't know what to do with it either.

  • Compare the characteristics of the words!

    Make a short checklist comparing features of the words that are “on sale”. Are there enough matches? Then you've found a good synonym.

  • Does it match the style and tone of the text?

    A good help for the selection is the hint (coll.): Thanks to this, you can use slang words as synonyms in one very much right from the start factual text exclude.

  • Test the synonym critically in the sentence!

    Even if you are sure of your cause, take another look at the sentence and its surroundings after you have inserted a synonym. The word quickly appears in a different light.

  • Does the new word improve the sentence?

    Even if you absolutely want to avoid repetition, make sure to improve the sentence with the synonym. At least you should never make a lazy compromise with the synonym.


Example: House - construction, dwelling shack, own home, home, hut

There is no generally right choice here. When choosing a good synonym, context always matters:

He lives in a very small house.
What is the “neighborhood” of the word? If colloquial expressions keep appearing in the rest of the text, you can for example through Booth replace and thus adapt to the loose tone.
How to finance your home.

The tonal environment of the sentence quickly becomes clear without having to see the rest of the text: the tone is factual, it is about a more serious topic. So only that comes from the list of synonyms Home in question - it even enhances the sentence. However, if you pay close attention you will notice Home does not have to be right in every context. Perhaps the house should not be inhabited by the owner at all?
You don't have to fall into the house with the door straight away.

The second half of the sentence is a fixed formulation, a so-called idiom. Fixed terms and formulations can neither be translated one to one, nor can you replace a single word in the formulation with a synonym.

Find suitable synonyms: no rule, many traps


A close look at synonyms causes confusion at first. Linguists also do not agree on a concrete definition of the synonym. If you search for a synonym in your text editing program, in the printed thesaurus and online, you will hardly find words with exactly the same meaning.
Sometimes a word with a similar meaning is enough. In other cases you can use the synonym to better convey your message and to describe it in more detail. So the rule for synonyms should be: There is no rule. It always depends. The main thing is that you ensure a sufficient match of the characteristics and pay attention to the context.
And the same applies here: Practice makes the word master. The more often you have to think "what is another word for ...", the easier it is to choose.

  • 17.07.2013
  • 02.09.2020

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