Hyponymy is a relation of inclusion between a hyponym and a hypernym or superordinate. The hyponym includes the meaning of the hypernym, which is the more general word. Generally, the relationship can be described in the terms Hyponym IS A Hypernym. For example, in the sentence ‘A dog is an animal’, Dog is a hyponym and Animal is a hypernym. In logical terms we may say: If x is an A, then x is a B if A is a hyponym of B.


A hyponymic relation exists between elements of various levels, which form a taxonomy.

Hierarchical taxonomies are semantic networks formed from systems of inclusion (hyponymy). Examples of taxonomies can be found in the natural world or in human artifacts.

In a taxonomy, the relation between hyponym and hypernym is vertical, whereas the relation between taxonomic sisters (terms at the same level of the hierarchy) is horizontal.

A hyponymic relationship is transitive, meaning that a hyponym on a lower level can still be a hyponym of a term not located directly above it. (Kestrel – Hawk – Bird; Kestrel is Hyponym of Bird)

Folk taxonomies vary from culture to culture. These include colour terms, plants & animals, kinship terms.

Types of Hierarchies (Stock, 2010)

Taxonomy – the relation can be further specified as Hyponym IS A KIND OF Hypernym. The hypernym and the hyponym must be regarded from the same perspective.

e.g. A stetson is a kind of hat.

Non-taxonomical or 'simple' hyponymy – Hyponym IS A Hypernym relation

? A queen is a kind of woman.

  A queen is a woman. (better)


? A stallion is a kind of horse.

A stallion is a horse. (better)

Stock explains that the reason why ‘A stallion is a kind of horse’ doesn't work is because stallion is regarded in terms of gender and horse is regarded in terms of a kind of animal. All the terms in a taxonomy are regarded from the same perspective.


Concept Explanation & Family Resemblance

Each narrower term in a hierarchy is created either because of concept explanation or family resemblance.

Concept explanation – the hyponym inherits properties of the hypernym

(e.g.birds) Kestrel & Hawk have properties of Bird

Family Resemblance – the hyponym inherits partial quality of the hypernym's properties.

e.g. Leisure Activity – Game – Game of Chance

A game of change is a game and a game is a leisure activity, however, game of chance doesn't inherit all properties of Game (for example, it is not a board game), and Game doesn't inherit all properties of Leisure Activity.

In a hierarchy of Family Resemblance, each hyponym must have at least one property which sets it apart from its sister terms.

Sub-case of taxonomy

Male-Female pairs.

3.47 dog bitch

        Tom ?queen

        Bull cow

        Hog sow

        Drake duck

        Cob pen

These are considered sub-cases because they are assymetrical.

In Male-Female relations, the relationship between the Male-Female term and the general term for the animal varies. Sometimes there is a distinct term for all 3, as in pig-hog-sow. Sometimes the male term is also the general term, as in dog, and sometimes the female is the general, as in cow.