This is a somewhat basic question but I cannot find an answer yet. I was under the impression that "no" should be a synonym of "without" but it seems not to be (at least on the synonym sites that come up on Google). The definition of synonym does state that a synonym is a word that is nearly the same as another word.

I can say that the cup of coffee is without sugar or that it has no sugar. They both mean the same thing - the critical words are "no" and "without". The more detail someone can provide the better and I have no problem with being corrected if I am in error.

Update: this also lends to the idea that they are synonymous: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/coffee-without-sugar-with-no-sugar.1535936/

  • 5
    "Coffee with no sugar" makes sense. "Coffee with without sugar" is nonsense. "Coffee without sugar" makes sense. "Coffee no sugar" is stilted and broken like baby talk. In short, synonyms typically are the same part of speech. "Without" is a preposition, while "no" is an adjective. – jejorda2 Feb 6 '19 at 19:11
  • Is it likely that it is actually a combination of words that are synonyms as opposed to the words themselves then? In other words: "with no" and "without" being synonyms? – Cheesus Toast Feb 6 '19 at 19:17
  • 3
    As @jejorda2 says, the notion of synonyms is that they are interchangeable with no or little difference in meaning. For example, decaf and decaffeinated are synonyms (not surprising, since the former is just a shortening of the latter), so they are interchangeable: “Do you prefer decaf/decaffeinated or regular coffee?”. That doesn't work with no and without. “Do you like coffee? – Without” is just nonsense, as is “Do you want your coffee with or without sugar? – No”. Without and with no, on the other hand, can be considered synonymous in many cases. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 6 '19 at 19:17
  • I can indeed see a definite error in my original question - unless you use baby talk they will never stand alone as synonyms of each other. – Cheesus Toast Feb 6 '19 at 19:26

"No" and "without" are different parts of speech and thesauruses give you synonyms (or antonyms) of the same part of speech. Additionally, it is uncommon for them to have multi-word synonyms/antonyms.

See for example:

Some thesauruses (e.g. Oxford Dictionaries) have "with" listed as an antonym of "without". Clearly, "with no" is equivalent to "without". In many cases though, dictionaries don't do a good job listing antonyms.

  • 1
    Thank you - yes, I believe I understand my error now. If I were to put this into a mathematical context and use X then I could say: Coffee X sugar. At this point I can now say: X = "with no" or X = "without". I guess I could also say: The coffee X sugar. This would then mean that X = "has no" or X = "is without". – Cheesus Toast Feb 6 '19 at 19:42
  • @CheesusToast - I guess that in Sign Language they would be synonyms. Given our stricter grammar in English, how about you think of them as equivalent? – aparente001 Feb 7 '19 at 6:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.