A thesaurus (plural thesauri or thesauruses) or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words. They are often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea:
...to find the word, or words, by which [an] idea may be most fitly and aptly expressed— Peter Mark Roget, 1852
Synonym dictionaries have a long history. The word 'thesaurus' was used in 1852 by Peter Mark Roget for his Roget's Thesaurus .
While some thesauri, such as Roget's Thesaurus, group words in a hierarchical hypernymic taxonomy of concepts, others are organized alphabetically or in some other way.
Most thesauri do not include definitions, but many dictionaries include listings of synonyms.
Some thesauri and dictionary synonym notes characterize the distinctions between similar words, with notes on their "connotations and varying shades of meaning".Some synonym dictionaries are primarily concerned with differentiating synonyms by meaning and usage. Usage manuals such as Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage often prescribe appropriate usage of synonyms.
Thesauri are sometimes used to avoid repetition of words, leading to elegant variation, which is often criticized by usage manuals: "writers sometimes use them not just to vary their vocabularies but to dress them up too much".
The word "thesaurus" comes from Latin thēsaurus , which in turn comes from Greek θησαυρός (thēsauros) 'treasure, treasury, storehouse'. The word thēsauros is of uncertain etymology.
Until the 19th century, a thesaurus was any dictionary or encyclopedia, as in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (Dictionary of the Latin Language, 1532), and the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (Dictionary of the Greek Language, 1572). It was Roget who introduced the meaning "collection of words arranged according to sense", in 1852.
In antiquity, Philo of Byblos authored the first text that could now be called a thesaurus. In Sanskrit, the Amarakosha is a thesaurus in verse form, written in the 4th century.
The study of synonyms became an important theme in 18th-century philosophy, and Condillac wrote, but never published, a dictionary of synonyms.
Some early synonym dictionaries include:
Roget's Thesaurus , first compiled in 1805 by Peter Mark Roget, and published in 1852, follows John Wilkins' semantic arrangement of 1668. Unlike earlier synonym dictionaries, it does not include definitions or aim to help the user to choose among synonyms. It has been continuously in print since 1852, and remains widely used across the English-speaking world.Roget described his thesaurus in the foreword to the first edition:
It is now nearly fifty years since I first projected a system of verbal classification similar to that on which the present work is founded. Conceiving that such a compilation might help to supply my own deficiencies, I had, in the year 1805, completed a classed catalogue of words on a small scale, but on the same principle, and nearly in the same form, as the Thesaurus now published.
Roget's original thesaurus was organized into 1000 conceptual Heads (e.g., 806 Debt) organized into a four-level taxonomy. For example, debt is classed under V.ii.iv:
Each head includes direct synonyms: Debt, obligation, liability, ...; related concepts: interest, usance, usury; related persons: debtor, debitor, ... defaulter (808); verbs: to be in debt, to owe, ... see Borrow (788); phrases: to run up a bill or score, ...; and adjectives: in debt, indebted, owing, .... Numbers in parentheses are cross-references to other Heads.
The book starts with a Tabular Synopsis of Categories laying out the hierarchy,then the main body of the thesaurus listed by Head, and then an alphabetical index listing the different Heads under which a word may be found: Liable, subject to, 177; debt, 806; duty, 926.
Some recent versions have kept the same organization, though often with more detail under each Head.Others have made modest changes such as eliminating the four-level taxonomy and adding new heads: one has 1075 Heads in fifteen Classes.
Some non-English thesauri have also adopted this model.
In addition to its taxonomic organization, the Historical Thesaurus of English (2009) includes the date when each word came to have a given meaning. It has the novel and unique goal of "charting the semantic development of the huge and varied vocabulary of English".
Different senses of a word are listed separately. For example, three difference senses of "debt" are listed in three different places in the taxonomy:
A sum of money that is owed or due; a liability or obligation to pay
An immaterial debt; an obligation to do something
An offence requiring expiation (figurative, Biblical)
Other thesauri and synonym dictionaries are organized alphabetically.
Most repeat the list of synonyms under each word.
Some designate a principal entry for each concept and cross-reference it.
A third system interfiles words and conceptual headings. Francis March's Thesaurus Dictionary gives for liability: CONTINGENCY, CREDIT–DEBT, DUTY–DERELICTION, LIBERTY–SUBJECTION, MONEY, each of which is a conceptual heading. The CREDIT—DEBT article has multiple subheadings, including Nouns of Agent, Verbs, Verbal Expressions, etc. Under each are listed synonyms with brief definitions, e.g. "Credit. Transference of property on promise of future payment." The conceptual headings are not organized into a taxonomy.
Benjamin Lafaye's Synonymes français (1841) is organized around morphologically related families of synonyms (e.g.logis, logement),and his Dictionnaire des synonymes de la langue française (1858) is mostly alphabetical, but also includes a section on morphologically related synonyms, which is organized by prefix, suffix, or construction.
Before Roget, most thesauri and dictionary synonym notes included discussions of the differences among near-synonyms, as do some modern ones.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms is a stand-alone modern English synonym dictionary that does discuss differences.In addition, many general English dictionaries include synonym notes.
Several modern synonym dictionaries in French are primarily devoted to discussing the precise demarcations among synonyms.
Some include short definitions.
Some give illustrative phrases.
Some include lists of objects within the category (hyponyms), e.g. breeds of dogs.
Bilingual synonym dictionaries are designed for language learners. One such dictionary gives various French words listed alphabetically, with an English translation and an example of use.Another one is organized taxonomically with examples, translations, and some usage notes.
In library and information science, a thesaurus is a kind of controlled vocabulary.
A thesaurus can form part of an ontology and be represented in the Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS).
Thesauri are used in natural language processing for word-sense disambiguationand text simplification for machine translation systems.
A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc.. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.
Roget's Thesaurus is a widely used English-language thesaurus, created in 1805 by Peter Mark Roget (1779–1869), British physician, natural theologian and lexicographer. It was released to the public on 29 April 1852. The original edition had 15,000 words and each successive edition has been larger, with the most recent edition containing 443,000 words. Roget was inspired by the Utilitarian teachings of Jeremy Bentham and wished to help "those who are painfully groping their way and struggling with the difficulties of composition [...] this work processes to hold out a helping hand." The Karpeles Library Museum houses the original manuscript in its collection.
A synonym is a word, morpheme, or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word, morpheme, or phrase in a given language. For example, in the English language, the words begin, start, commence, and initiate are all synonyms of one another: they are synonymous. The standard test for synonymy is substitution: one form can be replaced by another in a sentence without changing its meaning. Words are considered synonymous in only one particular sense: for example, long and extended in the context long time or extended time are synonymous, but long cannot be used in the phrase extended family. Synonyms with exactly the same meaning share a seme or denotational sememe, whereas those with inexactly similar meanings share a broader denotational or connotational sememe and thus overlap within a semantic field. The former are sometimes called cognitive synonyms and the latter, near-synonyms, plesionyms or poecilonyms.
This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1852.
Merriam-Webster, Inc. is an American company that publishes reference books and is especially known for its dictionaries.
An Essay Towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language is the best-remembered of the numerous works of John Wilkins, in which he expounds a new universal language, meant primarily to facilitate international communication among scholars, but envisioned for use by diplomats, travelers, and merchants as well. Unlike many universal language schemes of the period, it was meant merely as an auxiliary to—not a replacement of—existing natural languages.
Controlled vocabularies provide a way to organize knowledge for subsequent retrieval. They are used in subject indexing schemes, subject headings, thesauri, taxonomies and other knowledge organization systems. Controlled vocabulary schemes mandate the use of predefined, authorised terms that have been preselected by the designers of the schemes, in contrast to natural language vocabularies, which have no such restriction.
Dictionary is an application developed by Apple Inc. as a part of macOS. The application provides definitions and synonyms from various dictionaries, Wikipedia articles and a glossary of Apple-related terms.
Barbara Ann Kipfer is a lexicographer, linguist, ontologist, and part-time archaeologist. She has written more than 80 books and calendars, including 14,000 Things to be Happy About (Workman), which has more than 1.25 million copies in print. The 25th anniversary edition of the book was published in 2014. She is the editor of Roget's International Thesaurus 5th-8th editions.
Simple Knowledge Organization System (SKOS) is a W3C recommendation designed for representation of thesauri, classification schemes, taxonomies, subject-heading systems, or any other type of structured controlled vocabulary. SKOS is part of the Semantic Web family of standards built upon RDF and RDFS, and its main objective is to enable easy publication and use of such vocabularies as linked data.
A foreign language writing aid is a computer program or any other instrument that assists a non-native language user in writing decently in their target language. Assistive operations can be classified into two categories: on-the-fly prompts and post-writing checks. Assisted aspects of writing include: lexical, syntactic, lexical semantic and idiomatic expression transfer, etc. Different types of foreign language writing aids include automated proofreading applications, text corpora, dictionaries, translation aids and orthography aids.
Magyar szótár is a Hungarian language reference work in two volumes, by Hungarian translator Tibor Bartos published in 2002 by Corvina kiadó, Budapest, Hungary. It is a cross of a dictionary of synonyms and a thesaurus. Rather than relying on methods of computational linguistics, the vocabulary has been compiled manually as a by-product of translation work done by the author over his lifelong career as a translator of literary works.
Robert Lundquist Chapman was an American professor of English literature who edited several dictionaries and thesauri.
A conceptual dictionary is a dictionary that groups words by concept or semantic relation instead of arranging them in alphabetical order. Examples of conceptual dictionaries are picture dictionaries, thesauri, and visual dictionaries. Onelook.com and Diccionario Ideológico de la Lengua Española are specific online and print examples.
The Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum is a dictionary compiled by philologist John Kersey, which was first published in London in 1708.
The Oxford Dictionary of English (ODE) is a single-volume English dictionary published by Oxford University Press, first published in 1998 as The New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE). The word "new" was dropped from the title with the Second Edition in 2003. This dictionary is not based on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and should not be mistaken for a new or updated version of the OED. It is a completely new dictionary which strives to represent as faithfully as possible the current usage of English words. The Revised Second Edition contains 355,000 words, phrases, and definitions, including biographical references and thousands of encyclopaedic entries. The Third Edition was published in August 2010, with some new words, including "vuvuzela".
Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, also known as MEDAL, was first published in 2002 by Macmillan Education. MEDAL is an advanced learner’s dictionary and shares most of the features of this type of dictionary: it provides definitions in simple language, using a controlled defining vocabulary; most words have example sentences to illustrate how they are typically used; and information is given about how words combine grammatically or in collocations. MEDAL also introduced a number of innovations. These include:
In the context of information retrieval, a thesaurus is a form of controlled vocabulary that seeks to dictate semantic manifestations of metadata in the indexing of content objects. A thesaurus serves to minimise semantic ambiguity by ensuring uniformity and consistency in the storage and retrieval of the manifestations of content objects. ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 defines a content object as "any item that is to be described for inclusion in an information retrieval system, website, or other source of information". The thesaurus aids the assignment of preferred terms to convey semantic metadata associated with the content object.
A historical dictionary or dictionary on historical principles is a dictionary which deals not only with the latterday meanings of words but also the historical development of their forms and meanings. It may also describe the vocabulary of an earlier stage of a language's development without covering present-day usage at all. A historical dictionary is primarily of interest to scholars of language, but may also be used as a general dictionary.