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Definition of synonym

In usage, a simple synonym is a mineral or substance name that means the same as another name. Often these are older names, spelling variants and foreign language versions of names.

Classic examples include:

Disthene is a synonym of kyanite
Iolite is a synonym of cordierite (the name iolite is used more commonly in gemmology [glossary item missing]).
Chalybite is a synonymm of siderite continues additionally with the syntax used in several books, such as Hey's Chemical Index of Minerals [glossary item missing] where a name that can refer to several different minerals, they are each referred to as a 'synonym (in part) of this name. In terminology, we refer to this as a multisynonym.

This is used frequently in where a previous mineral name has been split into new minerals based on chemical or structural variation, for example with the zeolite group.

A good example is chabazite.

Chabazite is listed as a synonym of chabazite-Ca, chabazite-K, chabazite-Mg, chabazite-Na and chabazite-Sr

This can be confusing at first, because although all chabazite-ca is also chabazite, not all chabazite is chabazite-ca. However, the whole group of names (chabazite-ca, chabazite-k, chabazite-mg, chabazite-na and chabazite-sr) is entirely interchangeable with chabazite, so this syntax is used within

We cannot say chabazite-ca is a variety of chabazite, because chabazite-ca is a unique and valid mineral species in its own right.

The alternative syntax is to use the term 'group' which is used to define related minerals. However, groups are used to define minerals related by physical and/or chemical properties, and often these have wider meanings than the way multisynonym is used in Groups have a more formal creation procedure (usually requiring IMA approval to some extent) so cannot be used in every case.

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