Please help me to find a way to find out the most proper word from several synonyms.

I mean, generally, Is there a way to understand that which word is more proper that the other ones?

For example, from the words below, which one is appropriate for using in a story book, news, and in a conversation?

Bewitching, fetching, attractive, charming,

  • 2
    My off-the-top-of-my-head advice would be to read through the dictionary entries for each word, and see which one seems to fit best (I still do that from time to time). You can also use other tools, such as Ngrams and Google Books searches, to find out how common, obscure, trite, or out-of-style a word might be, and some example usages. Wordnik is nice because it will display example usages in the right-hand column along with meanings from a handful of dictionaries, plus synonyms along the bottom. – J.R. Feb 11 '14 at 18:33
  • @J.R. As always, Thank you very much. Usually I use COCA and sometimes Ngram but I haven't used Wordnik yet. It really seems nice. I will try it. Thank you again. – user3214 Feb 11 '14 at 18:46

Short of consulting other resources or data sets that show English word usage frequencies, the long-term answer is to read as much as you can. As with any language, English speaking children go through school reading books with many words they do not understand and often don't take the time to look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary. However, after so much exposure to words, if they were to see them as synonyms in a thesaurus for a word they did know, they would intuitively know which words they had encountered more often in their life and therefore which ones were more likely to be idiomatic or correct. You can replicate this experience, to a certain degree, by increasing your exposure to English that contains words you don't understand but can get a sense of with context clues.

As for your examples, in American English, the words "attractive" and "charming" would be the most common and relatively neutral in connotation. "Attractive" is by far the most common, and thus would be the most likely to use in a conversation. The word "fetching" is not common in American English usage, and the word "bewitching" bears an additional connotation that a person's beauty is so intense as to deprive its beholders of self control.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy