• 3-minute read
  • 13th January 2019

Vocabulary Tips: Synonyms for ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’

The words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are simple ways of expressing how we feel about something. However, they’re also overused, which means they can lack impact. So to make your writing more powerful and descriptive, you might need a few of the synonyms for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ detailed below.

Synonyms for ‘Good’

‘Good’ is a word with many uses, including as a noun and an adjective. We’ll focus on the adjectival uses here, where its basic meaning is ‘desirable’ or ‘of a high standard’. However, even then ‘good’ has several uses, so the best alternative will depend on what you are trying to say. Some common senses of ‘good’ and suitable synonyms can be found below, for example:




Acceptable in quality or degree

We have a good sense of how to proceed.

Adequate, fair, satisfactory, sufficient

High quality or desirable

Ghostbusters is a very good film.Brilliant, excellent, great, outstanding, superb

Useful or beneficial

Regular exercise is good for your health.Advantageous, helpful, positive, valuable

Morally good or agreeable

A good person helps those in need.Admirable, decent, respectable, virtuous

Skilled or capable

He is a very good singer.Accomplished, proficient, skilful, talented

Pleasant or pleasing

That flower smells good.Delightful, enjoyable, nice, pleasurable, satisfying

As the table above shows, the way to pick a ‘good’ (i.e. acceptable) synonym is to know what you are trying to say. This will often lead you to a more descriptive alternative. It is therefore important to check the definition of synonyms for ‘good’ to make sure they fit the situations.

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Synonyms for ‘Bad’

We say something is ‘bad’ to express a negative opinion. It is thus the opposite of good in all of its senses. And as with ‘good’, we have several options for how to use this word, including:




Low quality or faulty

A bad diet can cause health issues.Deficient, inadequate, mediocre, poor

Of a very low quality

Bathing in a tub of scorpions was a bad idea.Awful, dreadful, terrible, unacceptable

Harmful or negative

Smoking is bad for you.Damaging, detrimental, injurious, unhealthy

Immoral or disagreeable

Bad behaviour will be punished.Evil, reprehensible, unpleasant, wrong

Unpleasant or unwelcome

We saw the bad news on television.Abhorrent, disagreeable, troublesome, undesirable

There are other uses of ‘bad’ not described here, such as when we describe an injured body part (e.g. a ‘bad back’) or rotten food (e.g. ‘bad meat’). And as with ‘good’ above, this range of meanings shows that it’s important to check the definition of synonyms for ‘bad’ before you use them.

‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ in Academic Writing

It’s fine to use words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in academic writing, but they’re not usually enough by themselves. This is because they’re evaluative rather than descriptive. For example, if we were writing about management techniques, we might say that ‘unpaid overtime is bad for staff morale’. That is an evaluation because we say it is ‘bad’. But to demonstrate our understanding, we’d also need to explain why it is bad and how we reached that conclusion.

The answer here, then, is to remember that academic writing involves explaining our judgements. And the same applies to using words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in other forms of critical writing.

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