Ramblings about synonyms

Happy Dictionary Day

National Dictionary Day was held in the US yesterday to commemorate the great American lexicographer, Noah Webster’s birthday, who was born on 16 October 1758.

Of course, as a bunch of geeky linguists in the office, we just had to have the most bizarre conversation about dictionaries, lexicons and thesauruses to mark the occasion. (You would be surprised how much a group of linguists – and one ex-lexicographer – can talk about the subject!)

We ended up discussing thesauruses and synonyms. Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? Does every word have a synonym? Or rather, does any word have a true synonym? Synonyms usually differ in some minute nuances in their meaning, right? Otherwise languages would be rather uneconomical. Having two words that mean the exact same thing?! That would be a waste of precious dictionary space!

What do you think about the matter? Please share your thoughts, ideas, speculations!

 

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