Learning Synonyms

by Kate Woodford

Many of our About Words blog posts aim to provide our readers with a range of interesting words and phrases for saying the same or a similar thing.  We’re talking, of course, about synonyms – or near-synonyms. This week, we’re still focusing on this approach to vocabulary expansion but we’re looking at the way that Cambridge Dictionary +Plus can help with the process.

Let’s start by thinking about the way in which near-synonyms are different, focusing on verbs that essentially mean ‘look or see’. Peer, for example, means ‘to look carefully or with difficulty’. (‘She peered through the mist.’)

Glimpse, another near-synonym, means ‘to see something for only a short time or only partly’. (‘We glimpsed the castle from the train.’)

Of course, you can read either of these definitions separately and note the precise meaning of each word, but it’s when you compare the definitions that the differences between them become obvious.

So let’s imagine that you’ve just looked up the Cambridge Dictionary entry for the verb ‘peer’ and been inspired to learn other ‘look or see’ words. By clicking on the button Thesaurus: synonyms and related words under the examples, you call up a set with the title ‘Using the eyes’. Click on ‘Using the eyes’ to see the full set. You click on a few of these words and phrases in this set until you find the ones that interest you – peep, spot, eye something up, for example.

Of course, after reading the definitions, you could leave it there. (If you have an excellent memory, this might be all you need to do!) However, many people find that they learn new vocabulary more effectively when they have a record of it that they can go back to and revise and test themselves on. This is where the Word Lists feature in Cambridge Dictionary +Plus comes in!

By clicking on the yellow button on the right of an entry, you can call up the menu ‘My Word Lists’ on the left.

At the bottom of this menu, you’ll see a space (‘New word list name’) where you can type the name of your word list, (in this case, ‘look verbs’). Click on the tick and you’ve created a word list where you can add all your ‘look or see’ near-synonyms.

You can now go back to browsing the words in the Thesaurus: synonyms and related words set and when you see another that you want to add to your list, simply click the yellow button and on the left drop-down, choose the ‘look verbs’ word list. You can see all the word lists you’ve created by clicking on your name in the top left menu and selecting ‘Cambridge Dictionary Plus’. Then, when you’re looking at a word list, click on the yellow ?Test yourself! button and you’ll be asked for the word or phrase that matches the definition. In addition you can test yourself on level-specific word lists created by our editors at the Cambridge Dictionary.

Watch our video here to find out more about how to use Dictionary +Plus:

Have you registered for Cambridge Dictionary +Plus yet? Why not try it today for free?


6 thoughts on “Learning Synonyms

  1. Maryem Salama

    My dear, Kate how can I thank you enough for your generous aid that helps me today to use effectively this great website, which I have consciously chosen to be my best companion since I found it by chance some years ago? Allah blesses you and keeps my sparkling guide that enlightens my mind and eases my journey to master the English language.

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