Dictionary vs. Thesaurus

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Afshan Khan asks, “What is the difference between a dictionary and a thesaurus?”

A dictionary is a book containing the individual words of a language (usually organized alphabetically). The purpose of the dictionary is to set forth the orthography, pronunciation and signification of those words.

The thesaurus, on the other hand, is a specific dictionary that presents synonyms (words that have similar meaning) for every word listed. This type of dictionary became famous after its integration with word processing software.

The purpose of the thesaurus is to help the writer to find more suitable words and avoid the repetition of terms.

Online Dictionary and Thesaurus

Thankfully you no longer need to visit a library to get access to a good dictionary or thesaurus. There are plenty of websites that offer those resources free of charge. Dictionary.com is one of the oldest and most reliable online dictionaries. On the same website you will also find a link to the sister site Thesaurus.com.

Merriam-Webster, one of the most famous dictionaries around the world, also offer an online version. On the same website you will be able to access a thesaurus.

Finally, some years ago Google started providing dictionary-like results inside its search engine. Just search for “define word” to get the meaning to get the meaning of a specific word.

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5 thoughts on “Dictionary vs. Thesaurus”

  1. When I was in school, my teacher called the Thesaurus, “the dinosaur book.” I guess because it has a dinosaur sounding name.

    I live and work in a country that does not speak my native language. A thesaurus has become one of my favorite reference books. It can really help expand your understanding of word subtleties.

  2. While if I was required to pick one that humans could use for the rest of history and have the other one eaten up by aliens or something, I would grab a dictionary.

    But when it comes to what I use more often for myself–be it with work or for fun–I’d have to say thesaurus.

  3. A thesaurus gives you more wordplay, while a dictionary gives articulation to your voice. I would use the former, then the latter to see if ithe chosen word is the best anunciation of your voice. They go hand-in-hand.

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