The New Penguin Thesaurus (Penguin Reference Books)

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The word Thesaurus dates from the 19th century and means, from Greek through Latin, a storehouse, treasury or repository of information about words. And what a long way the concept has come since the thematic <I>Roget's Thesaurus of Words and Phrases</I>, published in 1852, which was fascinating but oh so difficult to use.<p> <I>The New Penguin Thesaurus</I>, like most modern thesauri (thesauruses is a permitted alternative plural if you prefer) arranges the words alphabetically in user-friendly dictionary format. That means you can look up, say, "beefy" and learn that this is an adjective. The list of synonyms offered is: "brawny, muscular, strong, big, hefty, stocky, bulky, burly, fat, fleshy, heavy, stocky, corpulent." You are also told that the opposite of all this is "slight". Unlike a dictionary a Thesaurus does not, of course, give definitions and derivations but it's a most useful way of finding an alternative word to the one you first thought of. And this pleasingly comprehensive and impeccably presented 21st-century Thesaurus offers nearly 400,000 options ranging from formal English such as "behove" and "sequestered" through to the more colloquial "grotty", "old hat" and "macho".<p> Especially useful are the occasional sentences and phrases to show a word in use. It's easy to be thrown (or disconcerted, disturbed, put out, discomfited, confused, confounded, baffled or perplexed) by a slippery word out of context, as all addicts of cryptic crosswords know. Thus, rather than lumping (or collecting, gathering, clustering or massing) them all together <I>The New Penguin Thesaurus</I> divides its entry under, for instance, "favour" into six sections. "Look with favour on the project" means something different from "did them a favour" or "gave him a favour", "favour a decrease in taxes", "favouring men with beards" or "favours her mother". Full marks to the editors for clarity. --<I>Susan Elkin</I>
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