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 Roget's Thesaurus of Words and Phrases, published in 1852, which was fascinating but oh so difficult to use.
The New Penguin Thesaurus, 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".
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 The New Penguin Thesaurus 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. --Susan Elkin
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