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World’s Biggest Thesaurus Launched

By Paperstone on November 2, 2009 in Books & Pads

Is the standard of English in your office declining / weakening / waning / flagging? Do your reports need improving / sprucing up / smartening up / beautifying? The recently published Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary might help.

This two-tome reference book, published by Oxford University Press, is the result of over 40 years of research conducted by the English Language department of Glasgow University and is the largest thesaurus in the world and the first historical thesaurus for any of the world’s languages. As in Roget’s, the words are categorised thematically but in addition, synonyms are ordered chronologically, showing dates of first recorded use in English, with earliest synonyms first. It contains almost 800,000 meanings, organised into more than 236,000 categories and subcategories. Its 4,500 pages are split into two volumes.

The project was inaugurated in 1965 when Michael Samuels, then Professor of English Language at the University of Glasgow, gave a lecture to the Philological Society. Momentum quickly gathered but the project almost came to a sad end in 1978 when a fire threatened to destroy the draft thesaurus. The building in which it lived was gutted but the draft itself was protected by a metal filing cabinet! Hooray!

The project was nearing completion in 1980 but the department decided to include words from updated versions of the OED, hence 30 years more work.

At 250 quid, the thesaurus isn’t cheap, but considering the thousands of hours of work put in, it’s a snip.


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Keep your work tidy and safe with a Bisley filing cabinet

Related article: StationEry or stationAry?


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