What writer can survive without a good thesaurus? Probably very few. Finding a variety of words that mean the same thing cuts down on repetition which makes for dull, unimaginative writing. When I began writing seriously, having the Oxford Thesaurus at the ready was a must, and it still is. But where did the thesaurus originate?
Thesaurus Day celebrates the birth of Peter Roget, author of Roget’s Thesaurus. As any good author knows, the thesaurus is an invaluable tool, listing synonyms (words with the same or a similar meaning) that allows writing to be more vivid and compelling. It also lists words with the opposite meaning – antonyms.
Fun facts about the Roget and his Thesaurus (Parts taken from World Thesaurus Day: The Top 10 Facts About the Classic Word Finder by William Hartston, Daily Express, January 18, 2018):
Peter Roget was born in 1779. Roget was a physician with a real passion for list-compiling. He only started work on his Thesaurus after retirement in his 60s.
Before Roget, the word “thesaurus” simply meant a store or treasury.
His work is more than a list of synonyms but divides the meanings of words into 1,000 concepts.
The Oxford Dictionary gives “thesauri” as the plural of “thesaurus”. The Cambridge Dictionary prefers “thesauruses,” saying “thesauri” is “formal.”
Recent writers have suggested that Roget suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Roget’s thesaurus lists the word “thesaurus” under the concepts of “list,” “word,” and “store.”
The Historical Thesaurus Of The Oxford English Dictionary was published in 2009. Volume Two, the index, is longer than Volume One.
The biggest unknown is the origins of Thesaurus Day. If you know the answer, share your knowledge in the Comments section.