I'm working on a dictionary which can translate words between two languages. It can however also "translate" between the same language, which means that it finds a synonym.

In this context the definition of "synonym" according to Merriam-Webster is:

1 : one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses

The definition of "translation" in this context according to Merriam-Webster is:

1 : an act, process, or instance of translating: as a : a rendering from one language into another; also : the product of such a rendering

This means that both words are directly conflicting. I am looking for a word that can mean both.

  • 4
    The word "translate" isn't limited to rendering words from one language into another. It can also mean: to explain in terms that can be more easily understood; to interpret (dictionary.com/browse/translate?s=t).
    – user184292
    Jul 8, 2016 at 20:09
  • If you work with various styles of speech in various communities or even dialects, the spirit of the words are such that a translation can be a synonym. A direct application of your question could be how some parts of the U.S. have familiarity with Yiddish or Spanish such that their words are blended into colloquial speech such that if someone says: "He thinks he a makher, the big enchilada."....these are more or less synonyms to "big shot".
    – user183590
    Jul 9, 2016 at 2:08
  • A possible generic word is replacement.
    – Barmar
    Jul 11, 2016 at 17:27
  • 1
    You might use equivalence if context is understood to be linguistic.
    – Kris
    Aug 22, 2016 at 0:36
  • I disagree with Merriam-Webster's claim that they have to be in the same language; at least unofficially, I've heard words from different languages described as synonymous. Nov 20, 2016 at 15:04

3 Answers 3


I am not sure because translate and synonym have a different meaning, but maybe the word homologue is what you are looking for. The word can be used to describe something that has the same function as something else in an other system. It is mostly used, I think, in biology. In the context of your question it would mean a word with the same meaning in an other language (so the translation); however, homologue is not a synonym for synonym.



equal to or having the same effect as something else

(Cambridge Dictionary)

I use this a lot, for example "Friolenta doesn't have a simple equivalent in English. (You use it to describe someone who feels the cold easily.)"


"Interpret" would be my nomination.

I think this word can switch-hit between different languages or within one, but can mean the same thing : convey a meaning to the user that makes sense to him/her.

I am unsure, however, as to what you'll call the book you're working on : for example we know what a English-Chinese dictionary is, but in this case it would be a English-Chinese interpretation, which can be taken wrongly.

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