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I think we should probably consider reverting this to the original definition that it was given - a word with a similar meaning. "It is now universally recognized that no exact synonyms exist in a given language... Synonyms are words either of which in one or other of its acceptations can sometimes be substituted for the other without affecting the meaning" (Fowler's Modern English Usage); "usually ...having the same general sense, but possessing each of them meanings which are not shared by the other, or having different shades of meaning or implications appropriate to different contexts" (Oxford English Dictionary). We shouldn't use the word "synonym" to mean words of identical meaning, because the word "synonym" would become useless. In common use, the word "synonym" means a word of broadly similar meaning. Roget's Thesaurus includes "indicator, index, pointer, arrow", and "fireworks, illuminations, pyrotechnics"; "luminescent, luminous, incandescent, shining"; "glimmer, flicker, flash". These are (most people would accept) groups of synonyms, but they don't (I would argue) have "very nearly" the same meaning. Amatlexico 17 Nov 2003 20:58 UTC

Well, what's with translations? E.g. the German translation "gleichbedeutendes Wort" means "word which has the same meaning as another" and not just "word with a similar meaning as another". So maybe how about having both definitions, like: sensu stricto (strict sense): a word which has the same meaning as another; sensu lato: a word which has the same or a similar meaning as another? -IP, 19:55, 26 April 2015 (UTC)~
That may be what "gleichbedeutendes Wort" literally means, but Amatlexico's point about synonyms never being 100% exact is presumably true in German as well. Equinox 20:01, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
There are several different terms in German:
  • gleichbedeutendes/bedeutungsgleiches/sinngleiches Wort = Synonym[um] (at least traditionally) - word which has the same meaning as another
  • bedeutungsähnliches/bedeutungsverwandtes/sinnähnliches/sinnverwandtes Wort = Synonym (sometimes in modern books &c. and maybe "Synonym" is sometimes also used for phrases) - word which has a similar (including: the same) meaning as another
  • (dated/obsolete spelling): "Synonim (eigentlich richtiger Synonym) [...] Wort, das mit einem oder mehreren andern eine gleiche Bedeutung hat" -- that is: Synonim - word which has the same meaning as another. Of course, "Synonim" might have also been used for "... similar meaning ...", but I've never found any citation for that (though I haven't really searched).
It might be difficult to decide whether two words have the same or just a similar meaning, and there might be different opinions whether two words have the same or just a similar meaning, but: When an author defines "synonym = word which has the same meaning as another" and then calles two words synonym, then at least he _thinks_ that they have the same meaning (even though they might be somewhat different or different in the mind of other persons). So this meaning/definition does at least reveal something more about the author's view.
-IP, 20:53, 26 April 2015 (UTC)


Comment removed from entry:

  1. (rare) One of two or more words with the same meaning but in different languages; a heteronym. (This is wrong - isn't it. Heteronyms are words that are spelled alike, but have different meanings

Robert Ullmann 13:12, 6 May 2008 (UTC) 23:51, 10 July 2011 (UTC)