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What is a Thesaurus and Why Use it?

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Question: Who needs a thesaurus?

Answer: Anyone who has ever been at a loss for the exact word.

The word thesaurus comes from the Greek word for treasure; the original meaning was a place where treasure is stored. As with many words, the sense later changed and a thesaurus became as a book that served as a source or repository of information - a "treasury of information".

Thesauri (or
Thesauruses) are often contrasted with dictionaries. The user of a dictionary is looking for information about a particular word, usually its meaning - the idea that the word stands for. In the thesaurus, on the other hand, the write starts with an idea and is looking for a word to express it, or the best word to use in a particular context. The words found in a thesaurus are not necessarily synonyms of the original word. A thesaurus is also useful for providing words that are connected with other words.

In different situations, the same idea might be most effectively expressed by a different word. A thesaurus helps you make the right choice. When you use a thesaurus, you are seeking a more appropriate term than the one you have in mind.

A thesaurus helps you:

  • Find the words you need to express your idea more effectively, descriptively and more interestingly
  • Avoid repeating the same words monotonously
  • Avoid clichés (overused expressions)
  • Recall the word that is on the tip of your tongue
  • Broaden vocabulary through trying out new words and phrases
  • Communicate with greater confidence
  • Find the word that suits the genre (type of writing, e.g. a letter), purpose, intended audience and context of what you are writing


For example, the adjective good is a most typical cliché:


Dictionary definition

1. Having desirable or positive qualities especially those suitable for a thing specified

"good news from the hospital"; "a good report card"; "when she was good she was very very good"; "a good knife is one good for cutting"; "this stump will make a good picnic table"; "a good check"; "a good joke"; "a good exterior paint"; "a good secretary"; "a good dress for the office"

2. Having the normally expected amount

"gives good measure"; "a good mile from here"

3. Morally admirable

4. Deserving of esteem and respect

"ruined the family's good name"

5. Promoting or enhancing well-being

"the experience was good for her"

Looking up "good" in a thesaurus

good, Christian, Christlike, Christly, Daedalian, God-fearing, OK, Roger, Sunday, able to pay, absolutely, acceptable, accomplished, according to Hoyle, ace, actual, adept, adequate, admirable, admissible, adroit, advantage, advantageous, advisable, affable, affectionate, agreeable, all right, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing, all-wise, allowable, almighty, alright, alrighty, amazing, ambrosial, amen, amiable, amicable, ample, angelic, appropriate, approving, apt, artistic, as you say, assets, assuredly, attractive, auspicious, authentic, authoritative, avail, aye, bad, balanced, barely sufficient, becoming, befitting, behalf, behoof, believable, belongings, benediction, beneficent, beneficial, benefit, benevolent, benign, benignant, benignantly, benignly, benison, best, binding, blameless, blessing, blissful, bon, bona fide, bonny, boon, boundless, bracing, brave, bravura, braw, bright, brilliant, brotherly, bueno, by all means, candid, capital, card-carrying, careful, certainly, champion, changeless, charitable, chaste, chattels, cheerful, choice, clean, clever, cloth, cogent, commendable, commensurate, commodities, company, compassionate, compatible, compelling, competent, complaisant, complete, complimentary, condign, congenial, congruous, considerable, considerate, consistent, constitutional, consumable, convenient, convincing, coordinated, cordial, correct, corresponding, crack, crackerjack, cracking, creating, creative, credible, creditable, crucial, cunning, cute, da, daedal, dainty, decent, decorous, defensible, deft, delectable, delicate, delicious, delightful, dependable, deserved, desirable, dexterous, dextrous, dinkum, diplomatic, due, dulcet, edible, effects, elegant, elevated, en rapport, encomiastic, enjoyable, enough, enthusiastic, equal to, equitable, erect, established, esteemed, estimable, eternal, eternally the same, ethical, eulogistic, even, evenhanded, everlasting, exactly, excellent, exemplary, expedient, expert, exquisite, extensive, extraordinary, fab, fabric, fabulous, fair, fair and pleasant, fair and square, famous, fancy, fantastic, favorable, favorably, favoring, feasible, felicific, felicitous, fine, first-class, first-rate, fit, fitten, fitting, flattering, following the letter, fortunate, fraternal, freight, fresh, friendly, fructuous, full, full of integrity, full of promise, gain, gear, genial, gentle, genuine, gifted, glorious, godlike, godly, godly-minded, godsend, golden, good enough, good for, good to eat, good-hearted, good-tasting, goodish, goodly, goodness, goods, graceful, gracious, grand, grateful, gratifying, great, groovy, gustable, gusty, hallowed, handy, happy, harmonious, health-enhancing, health-preserving, healthful, healthy, hear, heart-warming, heavenly, helpful, high-minded, high-mindedness, high-principled, highest, highly respectable, holy, holy-minded, honest, honest-to-God, honesty, honeyed, honorable, honorableness, human, humane, humanely, humanly, hygeian, hygienic, immaculate, immortal, immutable, inartificial, indeed, indeedy, infinite, ingenious, integrity, interest, invigorating, inviolate, irreproachable, ja, juicy, just, just so, justifiable, justified, kind, kindhearted, kindheartedly, kindly, kindly-disposed, knockout, kosher, lares and penates, large, laudable, laudatory, law-abiding, law-loving, law-revering, lawful, legal, legitimate, level, lifelike, likable, likely, limitless, line, literal, lofty, logical, loving, lucky, luminous, luscious, lush, magisterial, mais oui, majestic, making, manly, masterful, masterly, material, meet, meet and right, mellifluous, mellow, merchandise, merciful, merit, merited, minimal, minimum, moral, morality, most assuredly, movables, natural, naturalistic, naturally, naturellement, neat, nectareous, nectarous, needed, nice, nicely, no mean, nobility, noble, normal, normative, numinous, obedient, of course, of good omen, of gourmet quality, of happy portent, of promise, okay, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, one, opportune, orderly, original, otherworldly, oui, outstanding, palatable, paraphernalia, passable, penetrating, permanent, permissible, perpetual, personal property, pleasant, pleasing, pleasurable, pleasureful, plenty, plenty good enough, politic, positive, positively, possessions, precisely, principled, probity, produce, professional, proficient, profit, profitable, promising, proper, propitious, proportionate, prosperity, prosperous, pure, pure in heart, purehearted, quick, quite, quite some, radiant, rather, ready, real, realistic, really, recommendable, rectitude, refreshing, regal, reliable, reputable, resourceful, respectable, respected, rewarding, right, right and proper, right-minded, righteous, righteousness, rightful, righto, royal, sacred, safe, saintlike, saintly, salubrious, salutary, sanitary, sapid, satisfactory, satisfying, savorous, savory, scrumptious, seasonable, secure, see you later, seemly, self-consistent, sensible, seraphic, serious, shapely, shaping, simon-pure, simple, sincere, sizable, sizeable, skilled, skillful, slick, smart, smashing, softhearted, softheartedly, solicitous, solid, solvent, some, sortable, sound, sovereign, spiritual, spiritual-minded, splendid, spotless, square, stainless, statesmanlike, sterling, stock, straight, stuff, stylish, substantial, succulent, sufficient, sufficient for, sufficing, suitable, superb, superior, supreme, sure, sure thing, sure-enough, surely, sweet, sympathetic, sympathizing, tactful, talented, tangibles, tasty, tender, tenderhearted, tenderheartedly, terrific, textile, the compleat, the complete, things, thorough, timeless, timely, to be desired, to be sure, tolerable, tonic, toothsome, toward, true to life, true to nature, true to reality, true-dealing, true-devoted, true-disposing, true-souled, true-spirited, truehearted, truly, trustworthy, ubiquitous, unadulterated, unaffected, unassumed, unassuming, unbelievable, unblemished, unbounded, unchanging, uncolored, unconcocted, uncopied, uncorrupt, uncorrupted, uncounterfeited, undefiled, undefined, undisguised, undisguising, undistorted, unearthly, unexaggerated, unfabricated, unfanciful, unfeigned, unfeigning, unfictitious, unflattering, unimagined, unimitated, unimpeachable, unindebted, uninvented, unlimited, unpretended, unpretending, unqualified, unromantic, unsimulated, unspecious, unspotted, unstained, unsullied, unsynthetic, untarnished, unvarnished, unworldly, up to, upright, uprighteous, upstanding, use, useful, usefulness, valid, vendibles, verbal, verbatim, veridical, verisimilar, very good, very well, virtue, virtuoso, virtuous, virtuousness, wares, warm, warmhearted, warmheartedly, warmly, warrantable, warranted, weighty, welcome, welfare, well, well and good, well-behaved, well-being, well-disposed, well-done, well-founded, well-grounded, well-mannered, well-proportioned, well-thought-of, well-timed, wholesome, why yes, wicked, wise, wonderful, word-for-word, workmanlike, world of good, worth, worthwhile, worthy, yard goods, yea, yeah, yeomanly, yep, yes, yes indeed, yes indeedy, yes sir, yes sirree, yummy

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