Thesaurus > Dictionary

Some reference books are better than others. I like a good thesaurus better than a dictionary. A well-made thesaurus helps me boost my vocabulary.

I have a copy of Roget’s International Thesaurus. I also have a couple of dictionaries: Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and a Pocket Oxford Dictionary (The pocket Oxford also has sentimental value with a note “Given to me by Mrs. Ann Porter the nice woman who lives in the flat across the hall in England.” I was visiting my grandparents in London when she gave me the book.)

The Webster’s dictionary is the lesser of the three. Its definitions are merely satisfactory and I don’t expect greatness. I like the Oxford dictionary more. It’s succinct and I usually find something interesting when I open it randomly. It’s not the giant, full Oxford dictionary, but to call it “pocket” is a stretch. My bath robe might have a big enough pocket for it, but fitting it into a pants or shirt pocket is completely impossible.

The thesaurus is much more useful. Mine has two parts. The primary text is organized into topical areas, for example “496: Taste, Tastefulness,” “970: Uncertainty” and “487: Celebration.” Each category is broken into sub-categories of related synonyms. There’s always new phrases to find. “At sixes and sevens” under Uncertainty is a new phrase for me and I like the word “finesse” that I found under Taste.

Finesse is a comforting word. It reminds me of when my parents would play bridge. They would describe a certain situation in the game and call it a finesse. One hazard of a thesaurus is that, when I find a word I don’t know, I can embarrass myself by using it improperly. For example, if I write about a bridge game, first I need to learn what finesse means to a bridge player.

The second half of the thesaurus is a dictionary. Rather than having definitions, this section links to the relevant sub-part of different categories. This dictionary offers different senses of a word. “Worthless” points to categories containing “valueless,” “disadvantageous,” “paltry,” “unworthy,” and “terrible.”

I opened the thesaurus and the word “martyrize” popped up. I had never thought of what the verb form of martyr was. The word looks weird but makes sense. However, it’s not a word I’ll find in the novels I’m reading.

A thesaurus has better rabbit holes than a dictionary.

RhymeZone: A Useful Site for Writers

A blue push pinI have needed a site to help with word choice in poetry. I foundĀ and use it frequently.

Although RhymeZone starts as a rhyming dictionary, it is much more. I actually use it as a thesaurus rather than a rhyming dictionary because it includes an index of synonyms and antonyms.

When you need them, it will find homophones and similar sounding words. The similar sounding word lists include a rating of the closeness of the similarity and the options’ popularity. It will also search for a word in the titles of Wikipedia articles. It has examples of words in the context of lyrics and poems. It also provides several definitions for a word.

One query I made showed that “harsh” has the same consonants as the surnames “Harsch,” “Hirsche” and “Horsch”. This is one example of how it is integrated with a table of surnames. For “book,” there are 46 different words with the same consonants including dictionary words, surnames and rare words.

There are many uses for the web site. It’s presented in a well made design that integrates its features conveniently. Their article RhymeZone Turns 20 (with updates aplenty) describes features of the site.

If you’re a writer, it definitely is worthwhile to add this site to your favorite bookmark list.