I am obliged to translate theme of essay into english.

Which one is the best? Are they close synonyms and one can use them interchangeably? Can they be used in plural?

Wordnik says that:

  • image - A vivid description or representation.

  • portrayal - A word picture of a person's appearance and character.

  • representation - A description or statement.

  • What does your dictionary say? There is an excellent post on meta you might want to read.
    – Stephie
    Apr 8, 2015 at 19:19
  • I don't have dictionary that would have such descriptions.
    – roka114
    Apr 8, 2015 at 19:35
  • 1
    But you obviously have access to the internet: Collins, Merriam-Webster, Oxford Learner's Dictionaries...
    – Stephie
    Apr 8, 2015 at 19:41
  • 2
    @Stephie - Or onelook.com. I'm also a big fan of Wordnik, because it lists several example sentences taken from news articles. P.S. (to roka114): If the examples aren't clear, that's understandable, but you owe it to the community to at least explicitly say what you found when you tried to search for an answer to the problem yourself. Otherwise, they way this is currently written, someone might just paste those definitions here, and you'd be no better off than you are now.
    – J.R.
    Apr 8, 2015 at 19:54
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    @roka114 One problem is that the three words are synonyms, and as you may also know, synonyms, though similar in meaning, don't always mean the same. It's difficult for me to suggest any word because you are translating your own essay, so only you know exactly the meaning you intend to convey. That being said, I believe that portrayal fits best, because it's common to discuss how someone or something is portrayed in novels, plays, and movies. Apr 8, 2015 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


This would have been easier to answer had you mentioned more about what kind of "works" these are.

If these were works by Rembrandt, I would say image fits best. People gaze at images with their eyes, so image works best for sculptures and paintings.

If these were works by Huxley, I think portrayals would be a better word. As your defintion states, portrayal can be defined as "a word picture," so portrayal is a better word for descriptions written on a page.

Technically, representation is defined as an image or likeness of something, but it's often used to described copies, not originals. Given your context, I think it could be safely removed from consideration.

Since Bohumil Hrabal is an author, portrayals would be the better word. However, you've only asked about three words, and I'm telling you which of those three would be better. Yet there are other words that probably deserve consideration as well, such as:

Characterizations of women in Bohumil Hrabal's works.
Descriptions of women in Bohumil Hrabal's works.

However, I'm in no position to tell you which word is best, because I'm not really sure about the details of what you'll be studying.

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