The word thesaurus is New Latin for treasure; coined in the early 1820's. Besides its meaning as a treasury or storehouse, it more commonly means a listing of words with similar or related meanings. For example, a book of jargon for a specialized field; or more generally a list of subject headings and cross-references used in the filing and retrieval of documents. (Or indeed papers, certificates, letters, cards, records, texts, files, articles, essays and perhaps even manuscripts.)

Although including synonyms, entries in a thesaurus should not be taken as a list of synonyms. The entries are also designed for drawing distinctions between similar words and assisting in choosing exactly the right word. Nor does a thesaurus entry define words. That work is left to the dictionary.

In Information Technology, a thesaurus represents a database or list of semantically orthogonal topical search keys. In the field of Artificial Intelligence, a thesaurus may sometimes be referred to as an ontology.


  • Thesaurus of English Words & Phrases (ed. P. Roget); ISBN 0062720376, see: Roget's Thesaurus.
  • Webster's New World Thesaurus (ed. C. Laird); ISBN 0671519832
  • Oxford American Desk Thesaurus (ed. C. Lindberg); ISBN 0195126742
  • Random House Word Menu by Stephen Glazier; ISBN 0679400303, an unusual blend of thesaurus, dictionary, and glossary.


  • Evaluation Thesaurus (by. M. Scriven); ISBN 0803943644
  • Great Song Thesaurus (by R. Lax & F. Smith); ISBN 0195054083
  • Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms (APA); ISBN 1557987750
  • Clinician's Thesaurus, (by E.Zuckerman); ISBN 157230569X

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See also: Dictionary