Not Exactly Synonyms

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All words have explicit dictionary meanings—denotations—as well as associated meanings—connotations. Often these connotations are cultural. For example, a color, such as white, may connote purity in one culture and yet be the color of death in another.

It’s important to be certain what connotations words carry. Words you may see as synonyms may have either positive or negative connotations, depending on the context and the culture. For example, the word odor may be seen as positive, negative, or neutral. But if you’re looking for synonyms, check this list and see if some of them might not work for you. When in doubt, look up words in the dictionary to see if a word might have a connotation you weren’t aware of and don’t want. When writing a poem to your love and seeking to focus on how wonderful that person smells, it might be better to stick away from stench and reek.

Odor
Smell
Scent
Tang
Pungency
Whiff
Musk
Stench
Stink
Must
Reek
Aroma
Bouquet
Perfume
Essence
Sachet
Redolence
Spice

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2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

2 responses to “Not Exactly Synonyms

  1. Spent a loooooong time with a curious student once, trying to make clear the differences between “manly”, “masculine”, “mannish”, and (because I happened to use the word) “virile”. At the end of an hour, I was more confused than the student was.

  2. I can imagine! Was this an ESL student? Such slight but significant differences among all those words.

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