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Synonymy or Different Shades of Meaning

If antonyms are the words, which express opposite meanings, synonyms are vice versa. They have the same meanings and belong to one part of speech. All the delight of synonymy lies in the fact that, in spite of similar lexical meanings of synonyms, each of them has its special often inimitable, shades of meanings. This diversifies Russian language in great measure, makes it richer, expressive,and of course maximally informative.

The words, which are replaceable in the context, can be called synonyms. For example: «Он не выполнил задание в срок» /He didn't perform a task in time/ - «Он не сделал задание в срок» /He didn't do a task in time/.

Usage of synonyms in Russian helps to avoid the sameness and monotony. One word can have some different synonyms with different shades of lexical meanings, that's why every person phases in a wide range of possibilities to express one and the same notions with the help of different words, nebertheless, similar in meaning. This results in the fact that, choosing different synonyms for some notions, all people speak in different ways, having the ability to show the wholeness of their personality in the speech.
Also, synonyms may take place in different parts of speech, as well as antonyms: verb (делать /to do/ – выполнять /to accomplish/ – реализовывать /to realize/), noun (доброта /kindness/ – великодушие /generosity/ – милосердие /mercy/), adjective (смелый /bold/ – мужественный /corageous/ – храбрый /brave/), and adverb (быстро /quickly/ – шустро /apace/ – оперативно /swiftly/ – живо /jauntily/ – молниеносно /flash-like/).
Whereas synonyms have common lexical meanings and express one and the same notion, they still differ with expressive conotation. Different synonyms can also be affixed to the certain style of speech that results in using some synonyms more often than the others in certain cases. For example, «начитанный» /well-read/ will be used popularly much more often than its synonym «эрудированный» /erudite/, and «умный» /clever/ – more often than «интеллектуальный» /intellectual/.

Complete and Partial Synonyms

According to the degree of synonimity, synonyms can be complete or partial.

Synonyms with identity of lexical meanings and contexts are considered to be complete synonyms. Good examples of complete synonyms are: «помидор» - «томат» /tomato/, «образец» /sample/ - «пример» /example/, «дублеты» /doublets/ - «варианты» /variants/.

Partial synonyms coincide only in part of meanings and differ in their connotation and/or co-occurrence. For example: «мороз» /frost/ - «холод» /cold/, «жара» /heat/ - «зной» /sultriness/, «защита» /maintenance/ - «броня» /armour/, «дождь» /rain/ - «ливень» /downpour/.

Functions of Synonyms

According to the functions, synonyms can be divided into semantic and stylistic, as well as mixed (semantic-stylistic).

Semantic synonyms denominate different sides of designated notion and are different in usage:

  1. manner of action (отключить /to unplug/ – обесточить /to deenergize/, погасить /to put out/ – задуть /to puff out/);
  2. characteristic intensity (запах /smell/ – аромат /aroma/, новый /new/ – современный /modern/, старый /old/ – древний /ancient/).

Stylistic synonyms have different expressive shade and give different estimation. Furthermore, they often belong to different functional styles (мина /air/ – морда /muzzle/ – рыло /snout/ – лицо /face/ – лик /countenance/).
Distinctive features of semantic-stylistic synonyms include characteristics both of semantic and stylistic synonyms (идти /to go/ – плестись /to daddle/ – тащиться /to trudge/ – ковылять /to toddle/).

Structure of Synonyms

According to the structure, synonyms are divided into those of one root and different roots.

Synonyms of one root have common root and different affixes (ругать /to scold/ - обругать /to call names/ - заругать /to berate/).
Synonyms of different roots have completely different roots (сильный /strong/ – крепкий /firm/ – солидный /solid/), (активный /active/ - предприимчивый /enterprising/).

Source of Synonyms' Origin 

According to the source of origin, synonyms can be:
- derived from originally Russian words: выдумать /to invent/ – придумать /to concoct/  
- derived from both Russian and borrowed words: антипатия /antipathy/ - нелюбовь /dislike/
- derived from completely borrowed words: директор /director/ – менеджер /manager/
- derived from folk-poetic, obsolete or, conversely, modern words: лазурный /azure/ - синий /blue/ 
- derived from Old Slavonic and Russian words: младой – молодой /young/, старец /elder/ - старик /old man/.
Modern Russian cannot exist without such important stylistic device as synonymy, which makes our speech much more multifacet and appellative. With the help of synonyms we are able to express different shades of one and the same notion.

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