ASVAB Preparation: Synonyms and Antonyms

Synonyms and antonyms will be covered on the ASVAB. English is a complicated language. You could probably learn Spanish, German, or even Korean from scratch more easily than you could English. How many other countries do you know that have to teach their own native language throughout all the school grades (and even college!)?

In the English language, you usually have more than one way to say the same thing, even by swapping just one word. These different words with the same meaning are called synonyms. Synonyms are different words that have the same or very similar meanings. Funny, amusing, and comical are synonyms; they all mean the same thing.

In fact, that’s what the Word Knowledge subtest on the ASVAB really does: It tests your ability to select synonyms for the underlined words contained in the question stem. Look at the following example.

Perform most nearly means:

  • (A)eat

  • (B)dance

  • (C)execute

  • (D)sing

The correct answer is Choice (C). Execute (to carry out something) is a synonym of perform, which means the same thing. Although you can perform a dance or perform a song, dance and sing don’t actually mean the same thing as perform.

When you look up a new word in the dictionary and add it to your word list, you should include synonyms, because you’re very likely to see them on the Word Knowledge subtest.

An antonym is a word that has the opposite or nearly opposite meaning of another word. Smile and frown are antonyms of one another. The test makers often use antonyms as wrong answers on the Word Knowledge subtest. Knowing antonyms for words not only improves your chances of narrowing your answer choices but also beefs up your vocabulary.

For example, if you know that fast is an antonym of slow and you know what slow means, you also know what fast means.

How can you find the synonym of a word? A good place to start is the dictionary. Many dictionary entries include the abbreviation syn, which means synonym. The words that follow this abbreviation are synonyms of the entry word. You may also see the abbreviation ant in an entry. This abbreviation stands for antonym, and the word or words that follow it mean the opposite of the entry word.

Thesauruses are special dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms. Here are a couple of online thesauruses you can use to look up synonyms for words on your word list:

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