What Are Hyponyms in English?

In linguistics and lexicography, a hyponym is used to designate a particular member of a broader class. For instance, daisy and rose are hyponyms of the flower. Also called a subtype or a subordinate term. The adjective is hyponymic. The term is pronounced HI-po-nim” (with an emphasis on the first syllable), and its origin is from the Greek “below” plus “name.”

Words that are hyponyms of the identical broader term (that is, a hypernym) are called co-hyponyms. The semantic relationship between the more specific words ( daisy and rose) and the wider term (flower) is called hyponymy or inclusion.

Hyponymy is not restricted to nouns. The verb to see, for example, has several hyponyms—a glimpse, stare, gaze, ogle, and so on. In “Language: Its Structure and Use,” Edward Finnegan points out that although “hyponymy is found in all languages, the concepts that have words in hyponymic relationships vary from one language to the next.”

Examples and Observations

“Hyponymy is a less familiar term to most people than either synonymy or antonymy, but it refers to a much more important sense relation. It describes what happens when we say, ‘An X is a kind of Y’—A daffodil is a kind of flower, or simply, A daffodil is a flower.”

– David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2003

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