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July 16, 2009

World's largest thesaurus — 44 years in the making


Here's the BBC's July 6, 2009 article about the project.


Forty-year wait for new thesaurus

The world's largest thesaurus is due to be published this autumn, Oxford University Press has said.

The project began in 1965 and will include almost the entire vocabulary of the English language.

The work was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1978, but despite the building being gutted, a metal filing cabinet protected the files.

A spokesman said the final tome would contain over 230,000 categories with 800,000 meanings.

The thesaurus was nearly completed in 1980, but the team decided to include words from updated versions of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This added almost 30 years more work to the project.

The finished book will be twice the size of the current Roget's Thesaurus when it is published in October.

Professor Christian Kay, 69, one of four co-editors, began working on the book in the late 1960s when she was 27.

She said: "I didn't think at the time I would be involved 40 years later.

"We started using Roget's classifications, but it soon became apparent that wasn't adequate, as it wasn't detailed enough.

"Then we virtually started from scratch with a new system. That's why it took so long."

The thesaurus is divided into 354 categories covering subjects including leisure, education, faith and philosophy.

The eventual plan is to link the project to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, but no date has been set for this.


The two-volume 4,448 piece magnum opus will cost $316.



[via Cary Sternick]

July 16, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Boy, that thesaurus is umm, what's the word I'm looking for, ummm, big.

(Maybe I could use a set)

Posted by: Rocketboy | Jul 17, 2009 6:51:40 AM

Bev dear: better to die with a good word on my lips than none at all. Do you still have the art books? ;-)

Posted by: Miles | Jul 16, 2009 11:10:33 PM

So let's see, Miles, if I have this right -- you would be whacked, offed, executed, smoked, wasted, snuffed, terminated, dropped, axed and iced if you go and buy this thesaurus. Well, all I can say is, before you breathe your last and join the choir invisible, you'll be the most articulate homicide-in-waiting in the whole world! Once upon a time way back in the day, back when I had some money, I bought a set of three art books (Works of Piranesi in large format) for $350. I came close to suffering all that, too (actually probably one of them would suffice), but I managed to hide out until the brouhaha blew over. Get the thesaurus.

Posted by: Flautist | Jul 16, 2009 9:31:25 PM

Heeelloooo lusciooouus! Oh I want one. How to justify the expense though? Well worth it to me of course but, the husband is another matter. To be sure, I shall be murdered, liquidated, done away with, summarily dispatched, taken care of, rubbed out of existence once he realizes I have spent $316 on a Thesaurus.

Posted by: Miles the logophile | Jul 16, 2009 6:57:15 PM

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