BACKGROUND: Synonymous mutations do not alter the amino acids and therefore are regarded as neutral for a long time. However, they do change the tRNA adaptation index (tAI) of a particular codon (independent of its context), affecting the tRNA availability during translation. They could also change the isoaccepting relationship with its neighboring synonymous codons in particular context, which again affects the local translation process. Evidence of selection pressure on synonymous mutations has emerged. RESULTS: The proposed selection patterns on synonymous mutations are never formally and systematically tested in plant species. We fully take advantage of the SNP data from 1,135 A. thaliana lines, and found that the synonymous mutations that increase tAI or the isoaccepting mutations in isoaccepting codon context tend to have higher derived allele frequencies (DAF) compared to other synonymous mutations of the opposite effects. CONCLUSIONS: Synonymous mutations are not strictly neutral. The synonymous mutations that increase tAI or the isoaccepting mutations in isoaccepting codon context are likely to be positively selected. We propose the concept of context-dependent and -independent selection on synonymous mutations. These concepts broaden our knowledge of the functional consequences of synonymous mutations, and should be appealing to phytologists and evolutionary biologists.