It happens to even the most fluent of writers, and it’s probably happened to you: All of a sudden the right word seems just out of reach. You know what you want to express—or exactly the opposite of what you want to express—but, to find just the right synonym or antonym, you need to turn to the trusty thesaurus. And, thanks to the Internet, finding the perfect word to convey what you want to say no longer requires a massive book. A plethora of synonyms and antonyms is just a click away. Just make sure that you’re not guilty of any of these hilarious examples of how not to use a thesaurus.
The Internet also makes it easy to find the most popular of these online searches. According to the team at thesaurus.com, the word that people looked up synonyms for most often in 2019 was…”sexy.” Seriously! Perhaps people were motivated by singer John Legend’s recent crowning as People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. Some popular synonyms for “sexy,” if you find yourself with a similar query, are “hot,” “alluring,” “risqué,” and “provocative.” Different ones make better choices depending on whether you’re hoping to convey a positive or negative connotation of the word. Perhaps even more surprising, “sexy” is not usually a word near the top of the list. According to thesaurus.com’s senior research editor, John Kelly, it jumped all the way from the 86th spot, where it was in 2018!
The other words comprising the top 20 synonym searches for the year, however, are definitely a bit more understandable. The second–most searched synonym was “good,” also 2018’s winner; it’s understandable that people search for alternatives to this catch-all positive indicator. Like “good,” about half of the words on the top 20 list are commonly used adjectives, descriptors that could use a little spicing up. In addition to “sexy” and “good,” wordsmiths also looked for synonyms to words like “happy,” “beautiful,” and “bad.” A few verbs, like “understand,” and several words that can be both verbs and nouns, such as “experience,” “change,” and “show,” also made the list. Check out the full list below.
As for antonyms, those popular searches tended to be fewer commonplace words and more conceptual ones. This is most likely because people aren’t necessarily looking to replace a simple, common word with a more interesting one, as they usually are for synonyms, but rather to express something that is very much not a concept that they’re more familiar with. This is why people looked up antonyms for words like “empathy,” “humble,” and “integrity.” We bet you never knew that these 20 words are their own opposites.
To find this list, we reached out to SEMrush, whose software found the top 20 search queries, in Google U.S., containing the word “antonym” throughout 2019. For antonyms, the top search was for opposites of “benefit.” Some of the most popular antonyms for “benefit” as a verb are “hinder,” “worsen,” and “harm.” In noun form, you could use words like “detriment” or “obstruction.”
The adjective form of “benefit,” which is “beneficial,” also makes the list, hitting the seventh spot. Others are words that clearly belong as part of a pair, like “predecessor” and “prior,” but their opposites are a little lesser-known. The only word to make both lists was, interestingly, “support,” which was the third most searched for antonym and the tenth most popular synonym.
Now that you’re an expert on 2019’s synonyms and antonyms, boost your word wisdom even more with these pairs of words everyone thinks are synonyms—but really aren’t.