Does using two synonyms together always assert the meaning of the word?

I come across this a lot while reading.

The skin was like faded parchment with an arrangement of puckers and wrinkles which created between them an expression of fathomless inscrutability

Here 'fathomless' and 'inscrutable' almost mean the same thing, to wit, the former means undecipherable and the later that cannot be easily understood; completely obscure or mysterious; unfathomable; enigmatic

  • Do you have another example? In the sentence you've shown, 'fathomless', rather than undecipherable means 'really, really deep' or having no bottom, so fathomless inscrutability is deeply obscure and mysterious. Fathomless and unfathomable (in general use) are not synonyms. But yes, banging a couple synonyms together both reinforces the meaning, and also helps with precision. Synonyms don't have exactly the same definition and the use of two can help the reader by providing a sort of mental 'venn diagram' of the areas where the synonyms overlap.
    – mcalex
    Oct 10, 2018 at 8:34

1 Answer 1


In a sense, yes. But synonyms, while having nearly the same meaning, are not exact matches. Having multiple words can drive home the point, but it can also convey nuanced meanings. Take the following sentences as an example.

It was a long trek home.

It was an arduous trek home.

When I looked up the definition for trek, both long and arduous are in the definition! But using them in the sentence emphasizes both that it was truly a trek (rather than using that word as an exaggeration) AND a that part of the meaning of a "trek" is more relevant than the rest.

The trek was long. It took forever. It felt like it was never going to end. Yeah, it was tiring too but I really want to emphasize that it was LONG.


The trek was arduous. It was exhausting and tiring. It was so labor intensive that the length of it was secondary to how bad it made my muscles ache. I just really need you to know that this trek was especially difficult.

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