Title says it all, but some more examples could be:

  • like vs love
  • pleasure vs euphoria
  • carelessness vs apathy


...essentially words that carry more weight than their counterpart despite having similar definitions. I hesitate to call them synonyms- though that may not be incorrect to say, it isn't the term I'm looking for here.

  • 1
    I think this has something to do with Latinate register being more "genteel" than the register of words of Anglo-Saxon origin in the case of dislike vs hate where the dis prefix is Latinate. That the word comes from another language has something to do with how it comes to enter colloquial speech and develops connotations. If it's scientific lingo, or ruling class lingo, or street-business lingo, you end up with different results.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 14:56
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    'Careless vs apathetic' or 'carelessness vs apathy'! I don't think these are really counterparts; carelessness is doing something without taking care, not 'not caring' about something. Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 15:29
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    They don't offer a term for this, but this is somewhat relevant. Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 15:46
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    With adjectives, some are classed as extreme: astounding > surprising; furious > angry; ancient > old; gigantic > big .... See, for instance, Vocabulary Home. Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 16:00
  • What would be wrong with simple 'stronger'? Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


I suggest the three types of adjectives--positive, comparative, and superlative--are somewhat analogous to the three dyads or counterparts you provided in your question.

If you were to take the word pleasure, for example, and then rank it adjectivally, you would have:

  • pleasurable
  • more pleasurable
  • most pleasurable

The dyads you have provided could be expanded into triads, as follows:

  • fondness, like, and love (or, I'm fond of, I like, and I love)
  • stimulation, pleasure, and euphoria (or, I'm stimulated, I'm pleasured, I'm euphoric
  • detachment, complacence, and apathy (or, I'm detached, I'm complacent, and I'm apathetic, with my word detached as perhaps a better substitute for your word carelessness)

As for a way to name synonyms of varying strengths, I am at a loss to suggest a single word that fits the bill. I do, however, have some multiple-word suggestions:

  • gradations of synonyms
  • positive, comparative, and superlative synonyms
  • rank order of synonyms, from less, to more, to most
  • affective ranking of the intensity of synonyms
  • varying valences of synonyms
  • I'm pleasured? Well, that has only one meaning in my mind.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 25 at 19:16

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