Lesser Known Nyms

Tutorial Directory

In order to to name a concept with precision, it helps to know about nyms. Although the term Nyms may be unfamiliar, common Nyms include Synonyms, Hypernyms and Hyponyms. For more information on these kind of keywords, see Nyms Micro Tutorial. The term Nym is used here to identify many classes of words. In his book, Find It Online, author Alan M. Schlein describes searching the Internet as, "...a blend of learned skills, common sense and a bit of clever intuition." Knowledge of nyms sharpens your skills and enhances your intuition.

Knowledge of nyms helps in understanding variations in meaning contained in keywords. Understanding how search engines deal with keywords helps with crafting queries that avoid nym confusion. Mastering nyms means better search results.

Introducing Lesser Known Nyms

Some words change meaning based on how they are used, spelled, or punctuated. Naturally these distinctions are difficult for computers to recognize. Heteronyms, Homonyms, Contronyms, Capitonyms, and Acronyms are lesser-known nyms that confuse search engines.

  • Heteronyms are words that are spelled the same, but change meaning based on pronunciation.
Example: wind (WHINEd) - to coil up; (WINd) - the blowing air.
  • Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.
Example: acts - things done / ax - chopping tool
  • Contronyms are words with identical spellings but contradictory meanings based on usage.
Example: cool--positive sense (cool web-sites) vs. negative sense (cool reception)
  • Capitonyms are words that change meaning when capitalized.
Example: To polish piles of Polish brass.
radar screen
  • Acronyms are words created from the beginning initials of a group of descriptive words.
Example: RADAR - RAdio Detection And Ranging.

Understanding these specialized nym categories will give you greater precision when you form your queries. English is an intricate language with many inherent contradictions. Careful use of these nyms can help any search engine find just what you are looking for.

Nym Strategies

Heteronym Strategy

Heteronyms are words that are spelled identically, but change meanings when pronounced differently. Consider:

  • buffet (BUFFet) - to pound or bump; buffet (booFAY) - place where you serve yourself;
  • dove (DUV) - a bird; dove (DOHV) - jumped off;

Given the slippery nature of heteronyms, it is best to combine them with synonyms that are highly specific. BUFFET BUMP will return more information about skiing than it will about cold cuts.

The following quote from the Word-A-Day Archives illustrates how words with identical spellings have different meanings depending on the words around them http://wordsmith.org/awad/archives/1201

Listen, readers, toward me bow.
Be friendly; do not draw the bow.
Please don't try to start a row.
Sit peacefully, all in a row.
Don't act like a big, fat sow.
Do not the seeds of discord sow.

Homonym Strategy

Homonyms are words that have the same sound but a completely different spelling and meaning. Misspelling these common words can create confusion. Consider:

acts - things done / ax - chopping tool
racket - illegal moneymaking scheme / racquet - woven bat for tennis
right - correct / rite - ritual / wright - a maker / write - to inscribe

Proper spelling and application of homonyms will not only improve your writing, it will focus your queries and improve your results!

Contronym Strategy

Contronyms (sometimes called Janus words) confound search engines because they are words with the same spelling and contradictory meanings. Consider:

buckle - to hold together (e.g. buckle your belt) vs. to fall apart (e.g., buckle under pressure)
cool - positive sense (cool web-sites) vs. negative sense (cool reception)
transparent - easily seen ("His motives were transparent.") vs. invisible.

If a query contains contronyms, adding more specific synonyms helps reduce confusion and improve your search results.

Capitonym Strategy

Capitonyms are words that change pronunciation and meaning when capitalized. If you are looking for Herb's herbs you are dealing with capitonyms. If capitonyms cause confusion consider changing the word. This little poem from Word-A-Day makes the point nicely!

In August, an august patriarch
Was reading an ad in Reading, Mass.
Long-suffering Job secured a job
To polish piles of Polish brass.

From the Word-A-Day Archives! http://wordsmith.org/awad/archives/1201

See how "capitonym confusion" can complicate a Google search!

Try it: Google Query for Polish brass

By changing the word "polish" to "poland" the capitonym confusion is avoided and gets closer to the intended search target.

Try it: Google Query for Poland brass

What are Acronyms?

According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate dictionary, an acronym is: a word (such as NATO, radar, or snafu) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term. When using acronyms as keywords consider spelling out the entire sequence. An acronym may have several meanings including cultural or national interpretations. Consider: radar

  • RAdio Detection And Ranging.
  • Regional Alcohol and Drug Awareness Resource
  • Royal Association for Disability And Rehabilitation (London, England).

The Internet and education both have a number of obscure acronyms.

  • NCLB (No Child Left Behind)
  • NETS (National Educational Technology Standards)
  • IMSA (Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy)
  • PBL (Project Based Learning)

Acronyms can quickly become buzzwords that make professional vocabularies obscure. When using acronyms in your writing or in your queries it is wise to provide translations. Glossaries can be helpful when struggling to understand what an acronym means. Also consider online acronym translators when working with particularly obscure words.

Some popular online acronym finders:

Authored by Dennis O'Connor 2003 | Revised 2015 by Carl Heine