How Synonyms Work | Yext Hitchhikers Platform

What You’ll Learn

In this section, you will learn:

  • How the Search algorithm deals with synonyms


So how do synonyms actually work within the context of the Search algorithm?

One Way Synonyms

Let’s walk through how a one-way synonym would be treated.

  1. For a single query, we take each word, and every combination of sequential words, and check if a synonym exists for that phrase. Using the synonyms that are defined in the backend configuration, the algorithm produces “expanded” versions of the query - e.g., replacing the parts of the query with matching synonyms.


    • Original Search Term: “Career information”
    • Synonyms: “career” → “Job”,

    Expanded Search Terms:

    • “Career information”
    • “Job information”
  2. Find Potential Matches using natural language processing: Search then conducts a search using the expanded versions of the query. In looking for matches, it searches across textSearch and NLP searchable fields.

    • Taking the above example, Search searches all verticals for both “career information” and “job information” looking for matches in any pre-defined searchable fields.
  3. Return the Best Results: The Search Algorithm determines the best results and returns them. This might be a match for the original query (“career information”), or for any of the expanded search terms (“job information”).

  4. Do other full text search: Return other entities using full text search from the original query (just as if the synonyms weren’t there).

Synonym Sets

Now that you understand how one-way synonyms work - you also understand how synonym sets work. The only difference between the two is that sets expand in both directions. We are essentially just creating many one-way synonyms for all permutations of the set!

Normalization Synonyms

Normalization synonyms are the exact inverse of a one-way synonym, where a set of many terms is mapped to one term. These are particularly useful when multiple search terms can be used to reference the same thing.


  • Original Search Term: “doctor near me”
  • Synonyms: “physician”, “nurse”, “md” → “doctor”

Expanded search terms:

  • “Physician near me”
  • “Nurse near me”
  • “MD near me”
unit Quiz
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    How do synonyms work?

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    True or False: Synonym Sets work the same as one-way synonyms, they just expand in both directions.

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