Choosing the Right Word

Deciding which word in a thesaurus entry is best for your purposes is not always easy. The basic meaning shared by the members of a synonym group cannot tell you everything you need to know in order to choose the word that best suits your needs.

Something that is very pleasing to look at can be described as attractive, beauteous, beautiful, bonny, comely, cute, fair, gorgeous, handsome, knockout, lovely, pretty, ravishing, sightly, stunning, or taking, but which word is best for describing a sunset? A city? Should you use knockout to describe a cathedral or ravishing for a sports car?

Sometimes, of course, your own experience can tell you when one word is better than another, but that's not always the case. That's when the verbal illustrations in this thesaurus can be of help. Verbal illustrations can help by showing how each synonym is typically used:

<sunsets in Hawaii are just gorgeous>
<the glass-topped table was a handsome addition to the room>
<a knockout sports car that's the talk of the neighborhood>
<with her red curls falling around her shoulders>
<she looked ravishing in her green dress>

If after reviewing the verbal illustrations for all of the synonyms, you decide that you still have not found the right word, then you have the list of related words to consider:

Related Words: alluring, appealing, charming, delightful, eye-catching, glamorous (also glamourous), prepossessing; elegant, exquisite, glorious, resplendent, splendid, statuesque, sublime, superb; flawless, perfect, radiant; dainty, delicate; personable, presentable

Now you have 38 words that mean the same thing or nearly the same thing as beautiful. Here's where you need a good dictionary. You can consult the dictionary to get a precise definition of any word in the lists, and perhaps an example of its use. The vocabulary in Merriam-Webster's Online Thesaurus is based on Merriam-Webster's Intermediate Dictionary, which contains words within the range likely to be useful to you. Whether you use the Intermediate Dictionary or some other dictionary, you should always use this thesaurus along with a reliable dictionary.