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Hyponymy and hypernymy
In linguistics, a hyponym is a word that can be changed with a different and less precise word without changing the overall meaning of the phrase. The different word is its hyperonym, hypernym or superordinate term. Hyponymy is a relation to a more generic word. A hyponym can be part of a group of words on a similar level that can all be replaced by the same hypernym. For example, pigeon, crow, eagle and seagull are all hyponyms (co-hyponyms) of bird (their hypernym). In turn, bird is a hyponym of animal. In a sentence such as 'The pigeon is flying over the church.', it is possible to change the word pigeon to bird or animal without changing the overall meaning of the sentence. This is because pigeon is a hyponym of both bird and animal.
The word Hyponym comes from the Greek hupó, "under" and ónoma, "name". Hypernym comes from the Greek hupér, "over" and ónoma, "name". A hyponym can also sometimes be a phrase. A word can be both a hypernym and a hyponym.
The idea of hyponymy is very important in language translation. This is because hyponyms are very common across languages. For example, in Japanese the word for 'older brother' is ani (兄), and the word for 'younger brother' is otōto (弟). An English-to-Japanese translator needs to choose which Japanese word to use to translate the English word brother. This can be difficult during machine translation because this information is often not available.
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- Hypernym at Everything2.com