Is "exemplar" a synonym for the word "example"? Would the word "exemplar" fit in the sentences below?

He listed several exemplars to prove his point.

In his exemplar below, he illustrated the proper usage of commas and semicolons.

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Chenmunka, choster, Armen Ծիրունյան, Robusto Oct 15 '14 at 15:36

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  • 3
    What did the dictionary tell you? – tchrist Oct 15 '14 at 14:00
  • 1
    From the first snippet view returned by googling define xxxxx - synonyms for example: specimen, sample, exemplar, exemplification, instance, case, representative case, typical case, case in point, illustration. Synonyms for example: specimen, sample, exemplar, exemplification, instance, case, representative case, typical case, case in point, illustration. The definitions obviously overlap, but the less common exemplar is more associated with an "ideal" which is/should be copied. – FumbleFingers Oct 15 '14 at 14:07
  • Synonyms are hardly ever exact. So exemplar is a synonym of example, but has a much more specific meaning, context, connotation (look up 'hyponym'). – Mitch Oct 15 '14 at 14:36
  • I've looked at a few online dictionaries, and they don't do a very good job of conveying the differences in the shades of meaning between the two. This is a valid question. – phenry Oct 15 '14 at 15:43
  • An example is just "any old example of something". Think of a list of "examples". They could be good bad or indifferent. In contrast an "exemplar" is a "model" of that thing, a really terrific one that others can be modelled on. – Fattie Oct 15 '14 at 16:30

[I don't think I can answer this succinctly, but if I ramble on for long enough I can try and convey the meaning for you]

In its most boring meaning, an exemplar is just something which is intended to be copied by other people. However, this, I believe, is not the meaning that the Original Poster has doubts about. So, what I discuss below is the following meaning of the word as described in the following definitions in the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

a : an ideal model

b : a typical or standard specimen

An exemplar is something which already exists - not something that we create to prove a point. It is, in and of itself, so manifestly and proto-typically X-ish, that it can be used as a near ideal extant example of X-ishness. If you have an exemplar, you don't need any further examples. The exemplar itself demonstrates or proves the existence, qualities or worth of Xes in the first place - all on its own and just by the every fact that it exists. By seeing and understanding an exemplar of X, you understand all about Xes. An exemplar is a hero amongst mere examples.

In the Original Poster's examples, the word exemplar will not fit. In the first sentence there are several exemplars listed. You never need to list exemplars, because one is enough. After you've discussed one true exemplar, the case is closed, so to speak.

In his exemplar below will not work either. An exemplar does not belong to anyone. It is just itself. More importantly, it sounds as though the writer in that case had invented the example, the example didn't already exist. This also prevents it from being an exemplar in the sense discussed.

The Merriam Webster example sentence:

  • [He] cited Joan of Arc as the exemplar of courage.

Notice here the definite article the, which implies there is no better example/exemplar.

I hope this answer will suffice, until someone else provides an exemplar-y one!


One of the meanings of exemplar[1] : a model or pattern to be copied or imitated:

So when you say "he listed several exemplars", if the aim is to specify that he listed several (original) patterns/models to prove/demonstrate his point.

...the usage can be justified. However,the sentence #2 appears wordy.

E.g. With regard to th.ese objectives we would identify significant exemplars with target achievement dates.

They will be real exemplars of how employers, working with the public sector, can get training support that directly meets their needs.

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