Thursday, October 17

Similar Synonyms

Synonyms are words that have the same or similar meaning. For example, “distant” is a Synonym of “far.”

On the other hand, Antonyms are words with opposite meanings. For example, “near” is an Antonym of “far."

For more detailed explanation and examples of Antonyms, please read:

When a learner consults a dictionary, he may get confused because of Synonyms. In the dictionary, many words come together because they have the same meaning. But in reality, one word is different – whether a little or a lot – from another word. 

A dictionary is just a machine. It doesn’t think about which situations we use a word in. Sometimes, even if 2 words have a big difference, the dictionary doesn’t care and just shows them as Synonyms.

One good example is the pair “clean” and “tidy.” It is true that these 2 words are Synonyms, but if you look at their individual situations closely, you will notice that the first word talks about the absence of dirt (not dirty) while the second word talks about the absence of mess (not messy).

This is DIRTY, or not CLEAN. 

For this reason, “neat” is a better Synonym of “tidy.” Both of them mean not messy.

This is MESSY, or not TIDY. 

This small yet serious gap is very important for learners. This is what makes them confused and gives them trouble. If 2 words seem the same, a learner will try to use them in the same situation. But actually, the words are not exactly the same and it’s ok to use a word in some situations but not in others.

Another good example is the pair “embarrassed” and “confused.” At first, these 2 words might seem the same and a dictionary will often put them side by side. But in fact,

Embarrassed = shyness because of a mistake or some other situation

all images courtesy of stock.xchng

Confused = the lack of understanding or the lack of a clear idea

As you can see, some words that the dictionary says are Synonyms are not really Synonyms. They have completely different meanings and situations.

Unity and Freedom

The meanings of the words “unity” and “freedom” are also simple and easy enough to check. But if you think about other words that are related to them, you will surely get confused.

Here are other similar words:

(1) union

(2) unification

(3) liberty

(4) liberation

(5) liberalization

(6) independence

The first 2 words are Synonyms of “unity” while the last 4 words are Synonyms of “freedom.” Dictionaries often teach the words together, but a good English learner should feel that there’s a big difference in their usage.

Unity vs. Union vs. Unification

First of all, “unity” is the situation in which a group of people or nations agree or join together.

Ex. There is economic unity among Southeast Asian countries.

On the other hand, “union” means a group of states or nations that join together.

Ex. The European Union was established in 1993.

As you can see, “unity” is a situation while “union” is an actual group. 

Furthermore, “unity” is the quality of having matching parts.

Ex. His essay doesn’t have unity.

Union” often means an organization for workers.

Ex. He is thinking about joining the union.

Lastly, “unification” comes from the Verbunify.” It means the act of combining groups or nations.

Ex. The unification of Germany happened in the 19th century.

In summary,

unity = quality

union = group

unification = act

Freedom vs. Liberty

Freedom” is another tricky word because it has a big family. But the word “freedom” itself is easy.

Freedom = the right to do what you want without being controlled by anyone

Its close Synonymliberty” is:

Liberty = the right to do what you want without being afraid of a government 

This is the Statue of Liberty

Linguistically or in terms of language, the word “freedom” comes from Old English, this means Anglo-Saxon or Germanic. On the other hand, “liberty” comes from Latin.


Root Word
Anglo-Saxon / Germanic

The word “liberty” has a Latin origin, and it was first used during the time when the Romans conquered the British.

Because of this, there is a small but important difference that we should mention. The word “liberty” is often more formal while “freedom” is everyday language (more common).


The fight for liberty is long and hard.

My parents should give me total freedom.

Liberation vs. Liberalization

The Noun “liberation” comes from the Verbliberate” while “liberalization” comes from “liberalize.”








Liberate” means to make people or a place free from soldiers who have been controlling. “Liberation” has a similar meaning.

Ex. The liberation of Paris took place in 1944.

Liberate” also means to make someone free from a situation that make their life unhappy or difficult.

Ex. Citizens need liberation from poverty.

Lastly, “liberalize” means to make laws or rules less strict. The Nounliberalization” follows the same meaning.

Ex. Experts propose more liberalization of the economy. 

Freedom vs. Independence

Independence” means freedom from control by another country.


The small but proud country declared its independence.

The Philippines gained independence from Spain in 1898.

This is the reason why some countries have a holiday called Independence Day.

Independence” also means the freedom or ability to make decisions. You don’t need to ask other people for help or money.

Ex. Having a job gives you financial independence.

Because of this, we have these very useful Preposition combos:

Dependent + on

Independent + from

*Note: Please be careful about the spelling. One common spelling mistake is “dependant.”

For more explanation and details about the word “independence,” please read:

Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !

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