Many synonyms are context specific. For example "force" is a synonym for "drive" in the context of urging or inspiring, but not in the context of journeying by vehicle.

Other synonyms seem to work across all contexts, for example "sea" and "ocean".

How can I get a list of all synonyms that work across all contexts?


Reflecting on TimLymington's comment, is there some measure of synonym distance?

Consider some of the words that thesaurus.com offer as synonyms for sea: expanse, lake, ocean, pond, surf, abundance and blue. Intuitively, I'm confident I can replace sea with ocean more often than with blue. So I could say ocean has a shorter synonym distance from sea than blue.

How can I measure this distance? And, back to my question of a list, how can I get a list of all synonyms with distances?

(n.b. same question on Open Data stackexchange)

closed as unclear what you're asking by RegDwigнt Oct 16 '15 at 10:30

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    If two words were synonyms in all contexts, one of them would rapidly cease to be used. – TimLymington Oct 16 '15 at 9:36
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    I can see the sea from my garden: the ocean is several hundred miles away. Some (landbound) people do use the terms interchangeably but that doesn't make them synonyms; there are, for example, safety requirements that apply to ocean-going ships but not to all sea-going ones. I'm not so much proposing a theory as explaining a principle of language. – TimLymington Oct 16 '15 at 9:52
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    @RegDwigнt I think that says more about the limits of your imagination than the question. There's many ways distances could be calculated. Being outdated is fine - dictionaries are outdated the second they are compiled, and are still useful. And the usefulness of this project is my concern, not yours. – Ollie Glass Oct 16 '15 at 10:25
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    I think that says more about the limits of your understanding than those of my imagination. The distance is just as context-sensitive as the synonyms themselves. There are contexts in which bad is a synonym for good 100% of the time. And there are contexts in which it is always an antonym, 100% of the time. Saying that it's 36% synonymous on average is about as useful as pulling out a random figure out of nowhere. Indeed, as you freely admit, it would be pulling out a random figure out of nowhere, as there are any number of different methods for calculating it. – RegDwigнt Oct 16 '15 at 10:30
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    Anyway, the answer to the question is: there is no such thing. There is no list of all English words to begin with. That is a fact. That is the actual answer to your question. It does not exist. – RegDwigнt Oct 16 '15 at 10:34