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What is Thesaurus?

Updated on September 5, 2011


A thesaurus is a reference guide for people to expand their vocabulary in times of need or desire. A thesaurus comes in handy when writing resumes, articles, essays, novels, and many other literary. It's also available in book format, as an option in a word processing software, and over the internet because there's a need for it.

A thesaurus is used similarly to a dictionary. One begins by searching for a word. However, the results are quite different. Instead of receiving a definition as one would in a dictionary. A thesaurus will provide a compilation of words with the same, if not, similar meaning, in the same language, which are called synonyms. Synonyms are offered as an alternative to the original word searched. For example, if the word searched is family, some synonyms are relatives, kin, clan, tribe, and kinsfolk. Another example, if the word that's being looked up is happy some synonyms are merry, delighted, cheery, beaming, and pleased.


adjective (a)

  1. (of words) meaning the same or nearly the same (adj.all)
  2. Having the character of a synonym; expressing the same thing; conveying the same, or approximately the same, idea. (adjective)
    source: webster 1913


One great aspect about a thesaurus is that it provides for the most part the appropriate tense for the word being searched, preventing sentence alteration. Using an example previously mentioned, the word happy, a thesaurus would recommend merry, delighted, cheery, beaming, and pleased. If the word was happiness, a thesaurus would respond with merriment, delight, cheerfulness, glee, and pleasure. By providing the correct tenses, it encourages confidence that people can rely and trust a thesaurus to fulfill their needs.

Another great feature about a thesaurus is that it offers synonyms in many different contexts for appropriate usage. For example, let's saying someone wrote the sentence "My family is moving to North Carolina." The synonyms relatives and kin is a great substitution. "My relatives is moving to North Carolina." "My kin is moving to North Carolina." The other words such as clan and tribe might be preferable to distinguish between groups of people. For instance, if the sentence is "The elders of the Mattiponi family visited the reservation belonging to Cherokee family." The words clan or tribe would be more appropriate in this situation. "The elders of the Mattiponi tribe visited the reservation belonging to the Cherokee tribe."

In further depth, a thesaurus offers more contexts for different topics. For example, still using the word family, "She has a family." Synonyms in this instance are children, little ones, kids, offspring, descendants. "She has children." Meanwhile, the word family in this sentence "He comes from a great family that he is proud of." is used in a whole new way. Synonyms for family in this sentence are ancestry, bloodline, blood, forefathers, roots, origins. "He comes from a great bloodline that he is proud of."

Another attraction to the thesaurus is that it also provides synonymous phrases. For example, using the word happy and synonymous phrase is in a good mood.

Example of Synonyms

hope, assure
commitment, loyalty
content, substance
single, person, private
big, grownup

Synonymous vs Antonymous



adjective (a)

  1. of words: having opposite meanings (adj.all)
    source: wordnet3.0


A thesaurus is helpful for many situations. A thesaurus can assist a person in sounding more sophisticated. A thesaurus can prevent repetition is utilizing the same word. A thesaurus can allow a person to target the language of a specific niche. Sometimes, a thesaurus can even help with memory retrieval if a person forgot the word of choice.

A thesaurus can also supply related concepts such as antonyms. An antonym is the opposite of a synonym. An antonym is word with opposite definition in the same language of the word that is searched. For instance, if one searches for the word hot, the antonym would be cold. Another example of antonyms are tall and short. The antonyms are also given in the appropriate tenses and phrases as well.

Example of Antonyms

different, unlike
death, dying
immature, unfledged


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    • LearnFromMe profile image

      LearnFromMe 6 years ago

      As an English teacher, I always have had these in my room, but I get very discouraged when my students say, "Thesaurus? What kind of dinosaur is that?"... :/ I guess compared to using a computer thesaurus, a physical book thesaurus is a dinosaur. Nice hub!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

      During the early days of writing when I wrote with a pen I always kept a thesaurus beside. Today I have it in my computer.

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      When I was a teenager I started using a thesaurus for my creative writing. One in particular I recall is having looked at the word 'small' which had a large number of synonyms, so I wrote a short piece where I challenged myself to use them all. If I can find it, maybe I'll hub it.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Nice, concise overview of Thesaurus. I would like to link this to my Phrase Finder hub if you have no objection. Thanks!