The Oxford Thesaurus
An A-Z Dictionary of Synonyms
In its narrowest sense, a synonym is a word or phrase that is perfectly
substitutable in a context for another word or phrase. People who study
language professionally agree that there is no such thing as an ideal
synonym, for it is virtually impossible to find two words or phrases that
are identical in denotation (meaning), connotation, frequency,
familiarity, and appropriateness. Indeed, linguists have long noted the
economy of language, which suggests that no language permits a perfect
fit, in all respects, between any two words or phrases. Many examples of
overlapping can be cited; the more obvious ones in English are those that
reflect a duplication arising from Germanic and Romance sources, like
motherly and maternal, farming and agriculture, teach and instruct. In
such pairs the native English form is often the one with an earthier,
warmer connotation. In some instances, where a new coinage or a loanword
has been adopted inadvertently duplicating an existing term, creating
'true' synonyms, the two will quickly diverge, not necessarily in meaning
but in usage, application, connotation, level, or all of these. For
example, scientists some years ago expressed dissatisfaction with the term
tidal wave, for the phenomenon was not caused by tides but, usually, by
submarine seismic activity. The word tsunami was borrowed from Japanese in
an attempt to describe the phenomenon more accurately, but it was later
pointed out the tsunami means 'tidal wave' in Japanese. Today, the terms
exist side by side in English, the older expression still in common use,
the newer more frequent in the scientific and technical literature.
Any synonym book must be seen as a compromise that relies on the
sensitivity of its users to the idiomatic nuances of the language. In its
best applications, it serves to remind users of words, similar in meaning,
that might not spring readily to mind, and to offer lists of words and
phrases that are alternatives to and compromises for those that might
otherwise be overused and therefore redundant, repetitious, and boring.
The Oxford Thesaurus goes a step further by offering example sentences to
illustrate the uses of the headwords and their alternatives in natural,
1. Selection of headwords
Two criteria have been employed: first, headwords have been selected
because of their frequency in the language, on the assumption that
synonyms are more likely to be sought for the words that are most
used; second, some headwords of lower frequency have been included
because it would otherwise be impossible to find a suitable place to
group together what are perceived as useful sets of synonyms with
their attendant illustrative sentences. Obvious listings have been
omitted on the grounds that users of the Thesaurus can easily find
synonyms for, say, abdication by making nouns of the verbs listed
under abdicate. This deliberate attempt to avoid duplication is
mitigated in the case of very common words. For the convenience of the
user, both shy and bashful are main entries, as are method, manner,
and mode, which, though much the same in some respects, differ in
detail and application. In this book, however, mitigate is a main
entry but not mitigation, mistake and mistaken are main entries but
not mistakenly, etc. Where it is determined that such derivations are
neither automatic nor semantically obvious, separate listings have
2. Illustrative sentences
On the principle that a word is known by the company it keeps, one or
more sentences showing the main entry word in context are provided for
each sense discrimination. These have been carefully selected to
demonstrate the use of the main entry in a context likely to be
encountered in familiar written or spoken ordinary English. (See also
3. Synonym lists
Each main entry is followed by one or more sense groupings, each
illustrated by one or more sentences. An effort has been made to group
the synonyms semantically as well as syntactically and idiomatically:
that is, each synonym listed within a given set should prove to be
more or less substitutable for the main entry in the illustrative
In some instances, idiomatic congruity may, unavoidably, become
strained; where it is felt to be stretched too far--though still
properly listed among its accompanying synonyms--a semicolon has been
inserted to separate sub-groups of synonyms, and, in many cases,
additional illustrative sentences have been provided. Such
sub-groupings have been confined largely to distinctions between
literal uses and figures of speech, between transitive and
intransitive verbs, and between synonyms that differ in more subtle
aspectual characteristics of meaning or syntax. (See also 7, below.)
Not all senses of all words are covered for either or both of the
following reasons: the sense, though it exists, is relatively rare in
ordinary discourse and writing; there are no reasonable synonyms for
it. Thus, this sense of mercy,
an affecting or moving of the mind in any way; a mental state
brought about by any influence; an emotion or feeling: Mercy
is an affection of the mind.
is not covered for the first reason, as it is a literary and somewhat
archaic usage. The same can be said for the sense,
a bodily state due to any influence
and for other senses listed in the largest dictionaries but rarely
encountered except in literary contexts. Even in such contexts it
would be unusual to need a synonym for this word and others like it.
4. Cross references
There are very few cross references between main listings in the
Thesaurus. Where such cross references do occur, they are simple and
superior adj....3 See supercilious, above. --n 4 See
A number of cross references occur within entries, between variant
forms of an expression. At the entry for take, for example, as one can
say either take or take it in the sense of 'understand' etc., the
option is shown in the following way:
take v...19 understand, gather, interpret, perceive,
apprehend, deduce, conclude, infer, judge, deem, assume,
suppose, imagine, see: I take him to be a fool. I take it from
your expression that you've had bad news.
33 take it: a withstand or tolerate or survive punishment or
abuse, survive: The Marines are extremely tough and can take
it. b See 19, above.
In a few entries, the form 'See also' is used.
a. All words and phrases that are recognized as being typical of a
particular variety of English, whether geographical or stylistic,
are labelled. It might at first seem that a large number of
colloquial, slang, and taboo words have been included. The labels
used are those commonly encountered in ordinary dictionaries:
Colloq Colloquial; informal; used in everyday conversation and
writing, especially in the popular press and in dramatic
dialogue; sometimes avoided where more formal language
is felt to be appropriate, as in business
correspondence, scholarly works, technical reports,
Slang Belonging to the most informal register and
characteristic of spoken English; often originating in
the cult language of a particular socio-cultural group.
Not sufficiently elevated to be used in most writing
(aside from dialogue), although often found in the
popular press and frequently heard on popular radio and
Taboo Not used in polite society, usually because of the risk
of offending sexual, religious, or cultural
sensibilities; occasionally encountered on late-night
television and radio; often occurring in graffiti and in
dialogue in novels, plays, and films.
Archaic Describing an obsolete word or phrase (like tickety-boo,
lounge lizard) that is used deliberately to invoke the
feeling of a bygone time.
Used of a synonym (like comfit) that is no longer
current but might occasionally be encountered among
older speakers and in older writing.
Technical Used of a somewhat specialized word that is not commonly
encountered in ordinary, everyday English, like
defalcator, which appears as a synonym under swindler.
Literary Describes a word, like euchre 'cheat', that is not
usually met with in everyday language, even of the
formal genre, but may be found in poetry and other
Brit, US, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand
Marks a word or phrase that occurs mainly in the
The meanings of other labels are self-evident.
b. All labels can occur in combination. Usage labels always take
precedence over regional labels. For example,
pushover n. 1 sure thing, Colloq piece of cake, child's
play, snap, picnic, walk-over, US breeze, Slang cinch,
Brit doddle, US lead-pipe cinch.
Here 'sure thing' is standard universal English. All words and
phrases following Colloq up to the Slang label are colloquial:
'piece of cake,...walkover' are universal colloquial English,
'breeze' is US colloquial. All synonyms following the Slang label
are slang; 'cinch' is universal English slang, 'doddle' is
confined to British slang, and 'lead-pipe cinch' is confined to
talented adj....Colloq ace, crack, top-notch, Brit wizard,
whizzo, US crackerjack.
In this entry, all synonyms shown are colloquial, 'ace, crack,
topnotch' being universal English, 'wizard, whizzo' British, and
It must be emphasized that such labels are to some extent
impressionistic and are based in the Thesaurus on a consensus of
several sources: that is, there is no implication that 'breeze' is
never used in the sense of 'pushover' except in the US, nor should
such an inference be made.
c. Comments regarding what might be viewed as 'correct' in contrast
to 'incorrect' usage are generally avoided. For example, the
non-standard use of between in contexts referring to more than two
of anything or of among in contexts involving fewer than three
goes unmarked. However, if the usage question is confined to what
can easily be represented in a 'lexical' environment, then
suitable treatment is accorded it; thus 'now' and 'at present' are
labelled Non-Standard under presently. To take another example,
'different to', in the typically British usage His house is
different to mine, is rarely encountered in American English; in
American English, purists condemn 'different than', as in His
house is different than mine, which is increasingly heard in
British English; purists on both sides of the Atlantic prefer
'different from'. Such matters are best left to usage books and to
usage notes in dictionaries and are not treated in the Thesaurus.
d. Main entry words and sub-entries are not labelled, only the
synonyms. Thus, under beat appears the idiomatic expression, beat
it, which is not labelled:
8 beat it: depart, leave, abscond, run off or away, Slang
US take it on the lam, lam out of here, hit the road:
You'd better beat it before the cops come.
The idiom is not labelled because it is assumed that the user has
looked it up to find a substitute for it, hence needs no
information about it other than a listing of its alternatives
(which are labelled, when appropriate) and an illustrative
A rare exception to the above rule occurs where a headword has one
meaning in British English and quite a different meaning in
another regional variety. Thus:
subway n. 1 In US: underground (railway), tube: She takes
the subway to work. 2 In Britain: tunnel, underpass: Use
the subway to cross the road in safety.
Here, the two regional labels do not apply to the synonyms (since,
for example, 'tunnel' has the same meaning in both British and US
English) but to the two definitions of the headword.
e. Synonyms bearing any kind of label appear at the end of the set in
which they are listed, except in the case described immediately
6. Spelling and other variants
The spellings shown throughout are those preferred by most modern
British writers. British variant spellings are shown; if they are
variants of the main entry word, they appear as the first word in the
set(s) of synonyms following:
mousy adj. 1 mousey,...
movable adj. moveable,...
Such variants are also shown when they appear within an entry:
movable adj....transferable or transferrable,...
Common American spelling variants (humor, traveler, unraveled) are not
shown, but less common ones are listed for convenience. Where both
forms are variants in American spelling, they are described by 'or US
...accoutrements or US also accouterments,...
...phoney or US also phony,...
This should be understood to mean 'the normal British spelling is
accoutrements (or phoney); this form, together with accouterments (or
phony), occurs in American English'.
a. The purpose of a synonym book is to provide the user with a
collection of words that are as close as possible in meaning to a
designated word. The Oxford Thesaurus tries to go to a step
further by providing examples that not only illustrate the main
entry word in a natural contextual environment but also allow the
user to substitute as many of the synonyms as possible into the
framework of the context. For example:
porous adj. spongy, spongelike, permeable, pervious,
penetrable: The rainwater runs through the porous rock and
collects in the pools below.
It is possible to substitute for porous in the sample sentence any
of the words given as synonyms without any adjustment of the
grammar or phrasing of the example. That is not to suggest that
the synonyms are identical: 'permeable' and 'pervious' belong to a
different register from that of 'spongy, spongelike', being more
common in technical usage. Some might argue that 'penetrable' is
not synonymous with the other listed words; but it is the function
of this book to provide synonyms for the main entries, not for the
other synonyms that might be listed. No claim is made--nor could
it be made--that synonyms are identical, either to one another or
to another word, merely that they fall well within the criteria of
what, for practical purposes, is viewed as synonymy in the
It is certainly true that substituting for porous any of the five
listed synonyms will yield five standard English sentence.
b. Some judgement is required of the user in determining the syntax
and idiomaticity with which a given word or expression can be
substituted in an illustrative context: words are rarely as
readily interchangeable in a context as might be components in a
chemical or mathematical formula. Moreover, while such formulae
are reflective of science, language offers its users the virtually
infinite variety available only in art, with each individual
speaker of any language being presented with the opportunity to
become an artist.
In the following example, nearly all terms can be substituted for
adjoining in the first illustrative sentence; to create idiomatic
parallels to the second sentence, the parenthetical prepositions
must be used:
adjoining adj. neighboring, contiguous (to), adjacent
(to), abutting, bordering, next (to): We have bought the
adjoining land and will build our new house there. The
land adjoining the supermarket is for sale.
Interpreting this, the following are all idiomatic: adjoining
land, neighbouring land, contiguous land, adjacent land, abutting
land, and bordering land. But if the context requires the
adjective to come after land (with a following noun), then the
parenthetical words must be added to yield constructions that are
idiomatic, like land adjoining the supermarket, land neighboring
the supermarket, land continuous to the supermarket, land adjacent
to the supermarket, land abutting the supermarket, land bordering
the supermarket, and land next to the supermarket.
As this is intended as a synonym book and not a work on English
collocations, the treatment of idiomaticity cannot be taken
c. There are other reasons why direct substitutability is not always
possible within a single semantic concept. The following extract
possess v.... 3 dominate, control, govern, consume, take
control of, preoccupy, obsess; charm, captivate, enchant,
cast a spell on or over, bewitch, enthral: What possessed
her to think that I could help? He behaves as if he is
possessed by the devil.
Here, two aspects of the same sense have been divided by a
semicolon, with the synonyms preceding the semicolon illustrated
by the first contextual example and those following it by the
second. While it may be argued that in this instance the synonyms
following the semicolon, with their illustrative sentence, might
better have been listed in a separately numbered set, the close
semantic association of the two groups would thereby have been
d. Sometimes, where the sub-sense is familiar enough not to require
its own example yet needs to be set off from the other synonyms
because of a subtle or aspectual semantic distinction, a semicolon
is inserted among the synonyms and only one example is provided:
practice n.... 2 exercise, discipline, drill, practising,
repetition, rehearsal, training, preparation, workout,
warm-up; application, study: She needs more practice on
the beginner`s slope before going down the main piste.
the idiomatic usage of this sense of 'study' and 'application' is
sufficiently familiar not to require separate example.
On the other hand, a second example is needed for the next sense
...3 pursuit, exercise, work, profession, career,
vocation, conduct; business, office: He genuinely enjoys
the practice of law. I heard of a veterinary practice for
sale in Yorkshire.
It would be difficult--perhaps impossible--to defend such fine
distinctions in every instance: indeed, as a comparison of the
different lengths of the entries in any dictionary will quickly
reveal, language does not provide the same levels of sense
discrimination for all words. The metaphorical focus and diversity
of a language provide for polysemy in some semantico-cultural
spheres but not in others. The classic observation often cited to
demonstrate this linkage is that of the Inuit language that has a
large number of distinguishing words for types of snow or of the
African language that has an extensive vocabulary to describe the
kinship among its speakers. On the grounds that the lexicon of a
language is moulded by speakers who, quite naturally, use it to
talk (and write) about things that are important to them, one
might be tempted to draw conclusions about the voracity of
English-speakers by reflecting that the entry for take has about
twice as many definitions in most dictionaries as that for give.
e. Often, the semicolon may be used to separate transitive uses of a
verb from intransitive:
preach v....2 moralize, sermonize, advise, counsel,
admonish, reprimand, lecture, harangue, pontificate; urge,
inculcate, advocate: Mother used to preach to us about
being charitable. Father preached restraint in all things.
Because of the behaviour of verbs in English, different synonyms
may be required depending on what the object of the verb is and,
often, whether the object is a word or phrase or a clause:
predict v. foretell, prophesy, forecast, foresee, augur,
prognosticate, forewarn, presage, vaticinate; portend,
foreshadow, foretoken, forebode; intimate, hint, suggest:
My mother predicted that there would be moments like this.
If only I could predict the winner of the 2.30!
f. Wherever possible, the proper prepositional or adverbial particle
normally accompanying a verb in a certain sense has been supplied,
though it must be emphasized that the one offered is the most
frequently used and not, necessarily, the only one acceptable in
standard usage. Particles used with some words may vary
considerably, owing not only to dialect variation but also to
whether the verb is used actively or passively as well as to which
nuance of meaning, sometimes far too subtle to be dealt with
adequately in a book of this kind, is to be expressed. The
following entry illustrates the full treatment that can be
accorded to words that occur in a wide variety of grammatical
persevere v. Often, persevere in or with or at: persist,
resolve, decide, endure, continue, carry on or through,
keep at or on or up, be steadfast or staunch or constant,
keep going, stand fast or firm, see through, be or remain
determined or resolved or resolute or stalwart or
purposeful or uncompromising, be tenacious or persistent
or constant or pertinacious or assiduous or sedulous, be
tireless or untiring or indefatigable, show determination
or pluck or grit, be plucky, be patient or diligent or
stubborn or inflexible or adamant or obstinate or
obdurate, show or exhibit or demonstrate patience or
diligence or stubbornness or inflexibility or obstinacy or
obduracy, remain dogged, pursue doggedly, be intransigent
or intractable, cling to, stick to, support, stop at
nothing, sustain, Colloq stick with, stick (it) out: We
must persevere to win. I shall persevere in my loyalty.
g. In some adjective senses, a split might occur between attributive
and predicative uses, though in most such cases, where the syntax
is open, only one, usually common, illustration is given. For
example, alone is used only predicatively or post-positively, not
attributively; that is, one cannot say *An alone woman...In this
particular case, the normal attributive form would be lone, but
lone is not listed as a synonym for alone because they are not
mutually substitutable. It is acknowledged that the detailed
description of the special syntactic ways in which certain words
(like alone, agog, galore) behave lies outside the province of
Although similar cautions must be observed and adjustments made
throughout, it is hoped that the illustrative sentences will
provide a substantial basis for the user to identify idiomatic
abandon v. 1 give up or over, yield, surrender, leave, cede, let go,
deliver (up), turn over, relinquish: I can see no reason why we
should abandon the house to thieves and vandals. 2 depart from,
leave, desert, quit, go away from: The order was given to
abandon ship. 3 desert, forsake, jilt, walk out on: He even
abandoned his fianc‚e. 4 give up, renounce; discontinue, forgo,
drop, desist, abstain from: She abandoned cigarettes and whisky
after the doctor's warning.
--n. 5 recklessness, intemperance, wantonness, lack of
restraint, unrestraint: He behaved with wild abandon after he
received the inheritance.
abandoned adj. 1 left alone, forlorn, forsaken, deserted, neglected;
rejected, shunned, cast off or aside, jilted, dropped, outcast:
An abandoned infant was found on the church steps. Totally
alone, she felt abandoned by her friends. 2 bad, immoral,
amoral, wicked, sinful, evil, corrupt, unprincipled,
unrestrained, uninhibited, reprobate; loose, wanton, debauched,
wild, dissolute, dissipated, profligate; depraved, lewd,
lascivious, flagitious: His abandoned behaviour soon landed him
v. 1 shorten, compress, contract, truncate, trim, reduce,
curtail: We abbreviated some of the longer words to save space.
2 shorten, cut, condense, abridge, abstract, digest, epitomize,
summarize, US synopsize: The school presented an abbreviated
version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
adj. skimpy, brief, revealing: The dancers' abbreviated
costumes shocked some members of the audience.
n. initialism; acronym; shortening, contraction: UK is one
kind of abbreviation, or initialism; NATO, which is pronounced
as a word, is another, usually called an acronym.
abdicate v. give up, renounce, disclaim, waive, disown, surrender,
yield, relinquish, abandon, resign, quit: He abdicated all
responsibility for care of the children. She abdicated the
throne to marry a commoner.
abduct v. kidnap, carry off, make away or off with, seize, Slang US
snatch, grab: The child that was abducted is safe.
abet v. 1 encourage, urge, instigate, incite, provoke, egg on, prod,
goad; aid, help, assist: The jury found that his wife had
abetted him in the murder. 2 countenance, approve (of),
support, endorse, second, sanction, condone; further, advance,
promote, uphold: By failing to inform on the terrorists, the
neighbours abetted the bombing.
abeyance n. in abeyance. pending, abeyant, reserved, in reserve,
shelved, pushed or shoved or shunted aside, postponed, put off,
suspended, US tabled; temporarily inactive, dormant; latent;
Colloq in a holding pattern, on the back burner; Slang on hold,
in the deep-freeze, on the shelf, on ice, hanging fire: Legal
proceedings were held in abeyance so that talks could take place
to reach an out-of-court settlement.
abhor v. hate, loathe, detest, abominate, execrate; regard or view
with horror or dread or fright or repugnance or loathing or
disgust, shudder at, recoil or shrink from; be or stand aghast
at: He said that he abhorred any violation of human rights.
abhorrent adj. hateful, detestable, abhorred, abominable, contemptible,
odious, loathsome, horrid, heinous, execrable, repugnant;
repulsive, repellent, revolting, offensive, disgusting,
horrifying, obnoxious: The idea of war was totally abhorrent to
abide v. 1 stand, endure, suffer, submit to, bear, put up with,
accept, tolerate, brook: How can you abide the company of such
a fool? 2 live, stay, reside, dwell, sojourn: Local people
believe that the rain god abides in these mountains. 3 remain,
stay, continue, tarry; linger, rest: He'll abide in my care
till he can walk again. 4 abide by. consent to, agree to,
comply with, observe, acknowledge, obey, follow, submit to,
conform to, keep to, remain true to, stand firm by, adhere to,
hold to: You must abide by the rules of the club if you become
abiding adj. lasting, permanent, constant, steadfast, everlasting,
unending, eternal, enduring, indestructible; unchanging, fast,
hard and fast, fixed, firm, immutable, changeless: Her abiding
love is a solace to him.
ability n. 1 adeptness, aptitude, facility, faculty, capacity, power,
knack, proficiency, Colloq know-how: I have perceived your
ability to manipulate situations to your own advantage. 2
talent, skill, cleverness, capacity, wit, gift, genius,
capability: He has such extraordinary ability it is difficult
to see why he doesn't accomplish more. 3 abilities. faculty,
faculties, talent(s), gift(s), skill(s): Her abilities have
made her one of the finest cellists of our time.
ablaze adj. 1 aflame, afire, burning, on fire, alight, blazing: By
the time the firemen arrived, the roof was ablaze. 2 lit up,
alight, brilliantly or brightly-lit, sparkling, gleaming, aglow,
bright, brilliant, luminous, illuminated, radiant: The ballroom
was ablaze with the light from thousands of candles.
able adj. 1 capable, qualified, competent, proficient: I feel quite
able to take care of myself, thank you. He is an able tennis
player. 2 talented, clever, skilled, masterful, masterly; adept,
skilful, gifted, superior, expert, accomplished: There is no
doubt that Wellington was a very able general.
abnormal adj. 1 deviant, deviating, irregular, unusual, unconventional,
aberrant, Psych jargon exceptional: The wing of a bat is an
abnormal structure. 2 peculiar, unusual, odd, strange, queer,
freakish, unnatural, extraordinary, weird, eccentric, bizarre,
anomalous, aberrant, perverse, deviant, irregular, Colloq
offbeat, Slang oddball, kinky, weirdo: They certainly make the
contestants on that TV show do some very abnormal things.
n. 1 irregularity, unconformity, unusualness, singularity,
eccentricity, unconventionality, uncommonness, deviation,
aberration, idiosyncrasy: The desire in a man to wear women's
clothing is viewed as an abnormality. 2 distortion, anomaly,
malformation, deformity: The child was born with an abnormality
of the right foot.
abode n. residence, dwelling, dwelling-place, house, home, domicile,
habitation, quarters, lodging, accommodation Military billet;
Colloq Brit digs, diggings: He was described as being of no
abolish v. eliminate, end, put an end to, terminate, destroy,
annihilate, annul, void, make void, demolish, do away with,
nullify, repeal, cancel, obliterate, liquidate, destroy, stamp
out, quash, extinguish, erase, delete, expunge; eradicate,
extirpate, deracinate, uproot: The best way to abolish folly is
to spread wisdom. Prohibition in the US was abolished in 1933.
abolition n. elimination, end, termination, annulment, nullification,
repudiation, cancellation; destruction, annihilation: 1837
marks the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.
adj. 1 offensive, repugnant, repulsive, vile, monstrous,
loathsome, odious, execrable, detestable, despicable, base,
disgusting, nauseous, nauseating, foul, abhorrent, horrid,
deplorable: He was accused of crimes too abominable to detail
in open court. 2 terrible, unpleasant, disagreeable; awful,
distasteful, in bad taste, horrible, frightful , Colloq Brit
beastly: No one wants to go out in this abominable weather. The
d‚cor in this hotel is simply abominable.
n. native, indigene, autochthon; Colloq Australian Abo,
Offensive Australian aborigine , Slang Australian contemptuous
boong: Many aboriginals are not assimilated to modern life.
abound v. 1 prevail, thrive, flourish: Disease abounds among the
undernourished peoples of Africa. 2 abound in. be crowded or
packed or jammed with, be abundant or rich in, proliferate (in
or with): The ship abounds in conveniences. 3 abound with.
teem or swarm or throng with, be filled or infested with,
overflow with: The ship abounds with rats.
about adv. 1 round, around, close by, nearby, on every side: Gather
about, for I have something to tell you. 2 approximately,
around, nearly, roughly, more or less, almost, close to or upon;
give or take: In 1685 London had been, for about half a
century, the most populous capital in Europe. Light travels at
about 186,000 miles a second. 3 to and fro, up and down, back
and forth, here and there, hither and yon, far and wide, hither
and thither: He wandered about aimlessly for several days. 4
here and there, far and wide, hither and yon, hither and
thither, helter-skelter: My papers were scattered about as if a
tornado had struck. 5 around, prevalent, in the air: There is
a lot of flu about this year. 6 approximately, nearly, close
to, not far from, almost, just about, around: It is about time
you telephoned your mother.
--prep. 7 around, surrounding, encircling: There is a railing
about the monument. 8 round, around, all round, everywhere, in
all directions, all over: Please look about the room for my
hat. 9 near, nearby, adjacent to, beside, alongside, close by,
nigh: There were a lot of trees about the garden. 10 with, at
hand, Colloq on: I am sorry, but I haven't my cheque-book about
me. 11 touching, concerning, connected with, involving, in or
with reference to, in or with regard to, regarding, in the
matter of, with respect to, respecting, relative to, relating
to, apropos, Formal anent: He wrote a book about the Spanish
n. reversal, reverse, turn-about, turn-round, U-turn,
volte-face, US about-face: There has been a complete about-turn
in the policy concerning immigration.
above adv. 1 overhead, on high, aloft, in the sky or heavens: Far
above, the clouds scudded swiftly by. 2 upstairs: They lived
on the ground floor and the landlady lived above.
--prep. 3 on, on (the) top of, upon, over, atop: The plume of
smoke remained fixed above the volcano. He hasn't got a roof
above his head for the night. 4 over, more than, exceeding, in
excess of, beyond, greater than, surpassing: The operations are
controlled by gears, of which there are above fifty in number. 5
insusceptible to, unaffected by, out of reach of, not
susceptible or vulnerable or exposed to, superior to: The judge
is above bribery or other influence. 6 above all. before or
beyond everything, first of all, chiefly, primarily, in the
first place, mainly, essentially, at bottom: Above all, serve
God and country before you serve yourself.
adv. 1 openly, candidly, freely, publicly, frankly,
straightforwardly, plainly, for all to see, out in the open, in
the open: Donald has always dealt completely above-board with
--adj. 2 open, candid, frank, straight, direct, honourable,
straightforward, forthright, guileless, undeceiving, artless,
ingenuous, undeceptive, undeceitful, straight from the shoulder;
honest, genuine: The company's dealings have always been
abridge v. shorten, reduce, condense, cut, abbreviate, cut back, trim,
curtail, pare down, contract, compress, digest, summarize,
epitomize, abstract, US synopsize: We abridged the original
edition of 1000 pages to 480 pages.
n. 1 shortening, reduction, abbreviation, condensation,
contraction, truncation, trimming: The abridgement took ten
years. 2 curtailment: We protested against the abridgement of
our right to picket. 3 digest, condensation, epitome,
compendium, concise edition or version, cut edition or version;
synopsis, abstract, summary, pr‚cis, outline, r‚sum‚: The
one-volume abridgement of the dictionary is easier to use.
abroad adv. 1 overseas, in foreign lands or parts: We were abroad on
assignment for a few years. 2 broadly, widely, at large, near
and far, far and wide, everywhere, extensively, publicly: Don't
spread rumours abroad. 3 outside, out of doors, away, out and
about: There are few people abroad this early in the morning.
abrupt adj. 1 sudden, hasty, quick, precipitate, snappy; unexpected,
unannounced, unplanned, unforeseen, unanticipated: The
general's abrupt departure has been linked with the
disappearance of a great deal of money. 2 precipitous, steep,
sheer, sudden: From the ridge there is an abrupt drop of 1000
metres into the valley. 3 curt, short, brusque, blunt, bluff,
gruff, uncivil, rude, discourteous, impolite, unceremonious,
snappish: My bank manager gave me an abrupt reply when I asked
for an increased overdraft.
absence n. 1 non-attendance, non-presence, non-appearance, truancy:
This is Jason's third absence from class in a week. She runs the
place in my absence. 2 lack, want, deficiency, non-existence;
insufficiency, scantiness, paucity, scarcity, dearth: In the
absence of new evidence, the matter must remain undecided.
absent adj. 1 away, out, off, elsewhere, not present, missing, gone:
Twenty people attended, but Harold was conspicuously absent. 2
missing, lacking, wanting, deficient: All warmth is absent from
--v. 3 absent (oneself) from. keep or stay away from; withdraw
or retire from: He absented himself from the court during his
father's trial for murder. Absent thee from felicity awhile.
adj. preoccupied, inattentive, unattentive, absorbed,
unmindful, absent, off, withdrawn, unheeding, heedless,
unheedful, inadvertent; distracted, abstracted, day-dreaming, in
a brown study, in the clouds, unaware, oblivious, in a trance,
distrait(e), mooning, (far) away (somewhere), star-gazing,
wool-gathering: The absent-minded professor delivered his
lecture to an empty lecture hall.
absolute adj. 1 perfect, complete, total, finished, thorough,
through-and-through, consummate, flawless, faultless,
unadulterated, pure, unmixed, unalloyed, undiluted; rank: Alan
behaved like an absolute gentleman. 2 complete, outright,
downright, genuine, real, pure, out-and-out, transparent,
unmitigated, categorical, unqualified, unconditional, utter,
veritable, unconditioned: Peace is an absolute requirement for
prosperity. 3 unrestricted, unrestrained, unconstrained,
unlimited, unmitigated, arbitrary, despotic, dictatorial,
totalitarian, supreme, almighty, arbitrary, autocratic,
tyrannical: The days of absolute monarchy are numbered. 4
positive, certain, sure, unambiguous, unquestionable,
authoritative, verifiable, uncompromised: Few intelligent
people would claim absolute knowledge of anything.
adv. 1 unqualifiedly, unconditionally, unreservedly,
unexceptionally, unequivocally, unquestionably, positively,
definitely, really, genuinely, decidedly, surely, truly,
certainly, categorically: She is absolutely the best dancer I
have ever seen. I absolutely refuse to go. 2 totally, utterly,
completely, entirely, fully, quite, altogether, wholly: It is
absolutely necessary that you undergo surgery.
--interj. 3 certainly, assuredly, positively, definitely, of
course, naturally, indubitably, yes, to be sure: 'Are you sure
you want to go?' 'Absolutely!'
absorbed adj. engrossed, lost, wrapped up, occupied, engaged, immersed,
buried, preoccupied, concentrating, rapt: He was absorbed in
absorbing adj. engrossing, engaging, riveting, captivating, fascinating,
spellbinding, gripping: Maria was watching an absorbing
thriller on television.
abstract adj. 1 theoretical, unapplied, notional, ideational,
conceptual, metaphysical, unpractical, intellectual: It is
difficult to capture abstract ideas on paper. 2
non-representational, symbolic, non-realistic: Museums began
buying abstract art in the 1930s.
--n. 3 summary, epitome, synopsis, essence, digest,
condensation, survey, conspectus, extract; outline, pr‚cis,
r‚sum‚: By reading the abstracts, you can determine which
articles merit reading in full.
--v. 4 epitomize, abbreviate, digest, summarize, condense,
shorten, abridge, cut, cut down, US synopsize: The service
abstracts articles that appear in scientific journals.
absurd adj. 1 ridiculous, silly, nonsensical, senseless, outlandish,
preposterous, farcical, mad, stupid, foolish, idiotic, imbecilic
or imbecile, moronic, childish; laughable, ludicrous, risible,
inane, Colloq crazy, nutty, nuts , Chiefly Brit daft: The
notion that the moon is made of green cheese is absurd. 2
asinine, senseless, illogical, irrational, unreasoned,
unreasonable, incongruous, paradoxical, unsound, meaningless:
Today, most people view it absurd to believe that the earth is
absurdity n. 1 folly, silliness, ridiculousness, foolishness,
ludicrousness, nonsense, senselessness, meaninglessness,
illogicality, irrationality, unreasonableness, incongruity,
stupidity, Colloq craziness, nuttiness , Chiefly Brit daftness:
Many comics rely on absurdity rather than cleverness for humour.
2 paradox, self-contradiction, error, fallacy: No one can abide
the man's pretentiousness and other absurdities.
abundance n. overflow, superfluity, over-abundance, superabundance,
excess, surplus, oversupply, glut, satiety, over-sufficiency;
plenty, plenteousness, plentifulness, plenitude, copiousness,
profusion, Formal nimiety: The days when there was an abundance
of fresh drinking-water have come to an end.
abundant adj. 1 plentiful, overflowing, ample, copious, over-sufficient,
superabundant, plenteous, profuse, inexhaustible, replete,
bountiful, bounteous: The abundant rainfall fills the
reservoirs every day. 2 abounding (in), full (of), rich (in),
luxuriant, lavish: We know a stream that is abundant in trout.
The abundant vegetation of the rain forest is an ecological
abuse v. 1 misuse, misemploy, pervert, misapply, exploit: The
officer abused his authority in ordering the forced march at
midnight. 2 maltreat, ill-use, injure, wrong, hurt, mistreat,
manhandle, ill-treat; damage: I cannot stand by and watch that
drunk abuse his wife and family. 3 malign, revile, censure,
upbraid, assail, objurgate, lambaste, berate, rebuke, scold,
reproach, disparage, traduce, defame, insult, swear at, curse
(at), calumniate, slander, libel, decry, deprecate, vilify, rail
against: In the report the director was abused in the most
--n. 4 misuse, misusage, misemployment, perversion,
misapplication, misappropriation, Rhetoric catachresis: Beware
of imitating his abuse of the language. 5 addiction,
dependence: They are being treated for drug abuse at the local
clinic. 6 maltreatment, ill-treatment, ill use, fault: It
seemed perfectly natural that he should defend abuses by which
he profited. 7 self-abuse, self-pollution, masturbation,
violation, defilement; corruption: The schoolmasters
consistently lectured the boys against any abuse of themselves.
8 revilement, reviling, execration, vituperation, malediction,
imprecation, tongue-lashing, calumny, calumniation,
vilification, obloquy, scurrility, invective, maligning,
upbraiding, berating, objurgation, scolding; billingsgate: The
two parties, after exchanging a good deal of abuse, came to
abused adj. 1 misused: Permission to use the office copying machine
has become an abused privilege. 2 maltreated, ill-treated,
mistreated, hurt: It was explained that he had been an abused
abusive adj. 1 insulting, scurrilous, vituperative, calumnious,
offensive, slanderous, libellous, defamatory, censorious,
opprobrious, disparaging, deprecatory, depreciatory, derogatory,
derisory, derisive, reviling, vilifying, vituperative,
reproachful; profane; rude, filthy, dirty, foul, vulgar,
obscene, smutty, vile, thersitical: The Crown refuses to
tolerate abusive satire directed at the king. If I hear another
word of abusive language out of you, I'll wash out your mouth
with soap! 2 perverted, misapplied, improper, wrong, incorrect;
exploitive, exploitative, exploitatory; brutal, cruel,
injurious, hurtful, harmful, destructive: Despite the abusive
treatment of wives, married women commanded much respect. 3
corrupt, venal, dishonest, crooked: The politicians exercised
abusive power over the townspeople.
abysmal adj. 1 awful, appalling, dreadful, terrible, profound: The
government of Nero presented a spectacle of abysmal degradation.
2 abyssal, bottomless, profound, unfathomable, unfathomed: The
abysmal depths have been plumbed in the diving bell.
abyss n. deep, abysm, bottomless gulf, yawning chasm, gaping void,
unfathomable cavity, impenetrable depth(s): The path led
straight down into the abyss. In the scandal the MP was plunged
into the abyss of disgrace.
academic adj. 1 scholastic, collegiate; scholarly, learned, lettered,
erudite: Green's academic background qualifies him for the
professorship. The university began publishing academic
journals in the 19th century. 2 theoretical, hypothetical,
conjectural, speculative, abstract; ivory-tower, visionary,
idealistic; impractical, unrealistic, unpractical: The car
doesn't run, so the question of miles per gallon is purely
accent n. 1 emphasis, stress, force, prominence, accentuation;
intensity, inflection; cadence, beat: The accent is on the
second syllable in 'reward'. 2 diacritic, diacritical mark,
mark, accent mark: There is an acute accent on the 'e' in
'clich‚'. 3 pronunciation, articulation, intonation, speech
pattern, inflection: Even after forty years in the country, he
still speaks English with an Italian accent.
--v. 4 accentuate, emphasize, stress, give prominence to, mark,
underline, underscore, distinguish, highlight, set off or apart:
In her speech, the psychologist accented the 'id' in 'idiot'.
Why must he always accent the negative aspect of everything?