Synonyms of ‘to look’ in English

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Sofija Gubāne

Translating studies department

Research paper in

Comparative linguistics


Ventspils Augstkola


Table of contents:

Introduction                                                                              3

Synonyms and synonymy                                                        3

Synonym dictionaries                                                              4

Meaning of ‘to look’ in English, Latvian and Russian            4

Synonyms of ‘to look’ in English, Latvian and Russian         5

Translating synonyms of ‘to look’                                           7

Conclusion                                                                               7

References                                                                                8


The theme of this research paper is synonyms of ‘to look’.

I am going to define what is a synonym, synonymy and examine different shades of meaning (basic and derivative) and synonyms of  ‘to look’ in English, Latvian and Russian. I will examine the structure of synonym dictionaries, synonym lines and similarities and differences of synonyms of ‘to look’ in these three languages.

I will also slightly touch upon some synonym translation problems.

I have chosen this topic because I think eyesight is a very important sense of human beings and in every language of the world there is a word ‘to look’ and a great amount of synonyms to this word. But as languages and cultures differ these synonyms are not absolutely the same. I find it interesting to look for information, look it up in books or Internet, look deeper into things and I am looking to receive a positive evaluation of my work and to never look back after finishing it.


Synonym (Grk. Ónyma ‘name’) in a strictest sense, a word or expression that has the same meaning as another word or expression in the case of referential words, synonyms have the same referent. For example, morning star and evening star are synonyms because they both refer to the planet Venus. In broadest sense, any words that have overlapping meaning are said to be synonyms, e.g. acquire, get, obtain, receive, etc.

Synonymy can be divided into two groups: (a) complete (absolute, strict or pure) synonymy: by definition, complete synonymy presupposes the unconditional substitutability of the given expressions in all contexts and refers both to denotative and connotative semantic elements. (b) partial synonymy, which refers either to lexemes which can be substituted in some but not all contexts depending on their denotative and connotative meaning ( get/receive a letter, but not receive a cold) or to lexemes with same denotative meaning that have different connotations depending on regional (peanuts vs. goobers), socio-dialectal (money, dough, bread, moolah), political (team, committee), stylistic (room, suite), or sublinguistic (salt, NaCl) distinctions.

The causes of synonymic variation may be traced especially to the fact that the vocabulary of a language is an open system, which can rapidly adapt to dialectal, social, and scientific developments.


Synonym dictionary- in the broader sense, any dictionary that provides explanations of the lexemes through semantic paraphrases (mare, female horse). In the narrower sense, a compilation aiming at the inclusion of all synonymous expressions, based on a very broad concept of synonymy. There are also thesauruses, which are a special type of dictionaries that provides a list of synonymous expressions for most words in given language.

Structure of dictionaries differs in different countries due to dissimilarity of the development and pullulation of languages, lexicology and due to different explanation of the notion of synonym itself. For example, in three different Russian synonym dictionaries number of synonyms varied from 19 to 48, depending on whether the authors of the dictionary considered only basic meaning of 'to look' or also derivative meanings and whether they considered a word-group like смотреть во все глаза, не сводить глаз, пожирать глазами a lawful synonyms. English dictionaries provided from 35 synonyms to 73 items (but including also synonyms to noun ‘look’). Latvian dictionaries of synonyms each offer almost identical synonym lines for this verb.

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