So as not to bore us, get a thesaurus

Some people put thesauruses in a category with the pegasuarus–that is, extinct. But not me! The thesaurus (the one on my bookshelf, not the one in Microsoft Word) is my favorite tool. Why? because I’m an absolute fiend about finding the right word, and I need help to do it.

Be aware of the difference between “Roget’s style” and “dictionary style” thesauruses or “synonym finders.” The latter two are arranged alphabetically; the former uses an index in the back and numbered entries in the front. A Roget’s involves multiple steps (looking up a word in the back index, and then turning to various ones of the numbered citations), but yields many more possible synonyms and will inspire you to find the perfect word.

As with dictionaries, the key is to go with a reliable publisher, in addition to finding a Roget’s style thesaurus. (I’ve got Roget’s International Thesaurus on my shelf. Bartlett’s Roget’s Thesaurus is also reputable, as are volumes published by Oxford Dictionaries or Merriam-Webster’s.)

Beware digital thesauruses. The one in Microsoft Word is practically worthless, as is But I’m a fan of Thinkmap’s Visual Thesaurus, which may not get you quite as many synonyms as Roget’s, but displays them in a cool astronomical way–i.e., as little constellations of meaning. (It helps that its executive producer, Ben Zimmer, is a respected lexicographer.) It costs about $3 per month or $20 per year to subscribe.

A follower turned me on to, a free alternative. Like Thinkmap’s version, Visuwords displays words in web-like diagrams that provide an interactive way to find synonyms and view relationships between words. It does it in pretty colors, too!



3 Responses to So as not to bore us, get a thesaurus

  1. Maryellen Jones June 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    The thesaurus on my bookshelf is my favorite tool also. I,too, am a fiend about finding the right word.

    At the age of 84, I have no desire to be a published author. I write because I love to do it, and my thesaurus helps me in that process.

    I’ve had a love affair with words for most of my life. I was so excited when I read your comment about using a thesaurus. I have yet to actually meet another person who uses one, so you’re article served as affirmation for me that I’m in good company. Thank you, Constance

  2. Dr Sheela Nambiar July 2, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    I am also a great lover of words and what they can conjure up! I write articles for my National News paper, and some medical journals on Health & Fitness as that is my passion (by profession I am a gynaecologist). I absolutely love the thesaurus myself. Have a Rogets sitting on my desk at all times. Love to just go through a couple of pages sometimes just for the fun of.
    Thank you for this comment on the wonderful Thesaurus!
    Here’s my latest article:

  3. Constance Hale November 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks Maryellen, Sheela, and Kendra Wagner, who left a comment about on my Facebook page ( I’ve just updated this page as a result of the comments from all of you.

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