April 29, 2010

Anniversary of Publication of Roget's Thesaurus (1852)

On this date in 1852, the first edition of an English-language thesaurus created by Dr. Peter Mark Roget was published. It included 15,000 words. Since that year, Roget's Thesaurus has never been out of print, and the words inside have steadily grown—with more than a quarter of a million words by now...

A thesaurus is a list of words organized by concept, with synonyms and sometimes antonyms listed together. It is not a list with which writers and students can simply swap words, because often the meanings or the feeling-tones (in other words, the definitions and the connotations) of various words are different. People using a thesaurus can browse a list looking for just the right word.

Here's an example: in one section of Roget's Thesaurus we find market, emporium, open air market, marketplace, flea market, auction room, street market, shop, store, depot, warehouse, bazaar, trading post, arcade, trading center, department store, chain store, trade fair, exchange, exhibition, boutique, supermarket, grocery store, superstore, cash and carry, convenience store, stall, booth, stand, corner shop, kiosk, newsstand, counter, vending machine, shopping center...
Each of these words has a particular meaning and tone. A J.C.Penny's isn't a boutique or kiosk, and the tiny floral shop on the corner isn't a grocery store or trading post.

Dr. Roget started his word list in 1805, two years before Daniel Webster started writing his dictionary. Dr. Roget used his list privately for almost 50 years before publishing it. He lived a long life (until age 90!) and was able to see his work through 28 printings (and, of course, there have been many, many more since then).

Rate the following words for their connotation.
Which one is more positive (or less negative) than the other?

  • Slim....skinny
  • Obese...sturdy
  • Immature...young
  • Timid...cautious
  • Communicative...babbling
  • Gossipy...newsy
  • Fanciful...untrue
  • Precise...fastidious
  • Deceptive...unrealistic
  • Idiotic...foolish

My Answers: I think that these words are more positive (less negative): slim, sturdy, young, cautious, communicative, newsy, fanciful, precise, unrealistic, foolish. Do you agree?

BrainPop has some activities about synonyms and antonyms.

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