How to find a treasure trove of ideas in the "storehouse" of a thesaurus.
Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash
Several million years ago, the Thesaurus was unique among dinosaurs for its above-average vocabulary, as most of them only went "RARRR". Apologies. Can't resist a dad joke.
Anyway, as we know, a thesaurus is actually a book full of lots of words that helps you find lots of other words that mean the same or similar (synonyms) or the opposite (antonyms).
The word comes from Greek thesauros, meaning treasure, treasury, or storehouse.
And for the creative brain, that's exactly what it is. A treasure trove of ideas and prompts.
Peter Mark Roget published the first conventional thesaurus in 1852. Dr Roget's Thesaurus contained words listed by their meaning and theme. In fact, the 18th of January is a themed day, National Thesaurus Day, Roget's birthday.
Obviously, nowadays you don't need a dusty old book version of a thesaurus (unless you're old school; nothing wrong with that), you can use many an online thesaurus.
My favourite at the time of 'publishing' is powerthesaurus.org. I like the fact that you can search for a word and then filter by A-Z, Z-A, user rating, length of word and number of syllables.
Ironically, the plural of thesaurus is a choice between either thesauruses or thesauri. I prefer the latter because it sounds like The Sore Eye - which is a medical condition I just made up to describe reading too many thesauruses. But sore eye (or eyes) or not, a thesaurus doesn't have to be straight up and bog standard to give you a creative nudge.
Here's a few other fun ones to try out (PS. Not all are child or work-friendly):
University of Glasgow’s Historical Thesaurus of English - includes "almost every recorded word in English from early medieval times to the present day".
Urbandictionary.com - a crowdsourced online dictionary for slang words and phrases. Great for when you don't understand what people younger than you are saying.
Urbanthesaurus.org - not affiliated to the one above, but often just as naughty.
Abbreviations.com - find new meanings for TBH, LOL and WTF.
ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus - an interactive dictionary and thesaurus which creates word maps that blossom and branch into related words.
They're all great when you're looking for that word that might help with a strapline, slogan, phrase, or piece of writing that requires some advanced alternative alliteration.
Or if you're trying not to repeat the same word over and over and over and over and...time after time...and again and again.
Handy too for finding some tasty little crackers to fit a pre-existing abbreviation like TLC.
I also use a thesaurus to throw around word ideas to get me thinking in a different way. The meaning of words isn't just their dry definition in the comprehension of language, but the meaning they have to you individually.
For example, depending on your inclination the word 'baby' will prompt a different initial meaning - a different emotional connection - from person to person. For a new parent, it could signify 'sleeplessness'. For me, I get a mental image of Austin Powers.
By using a Thesaurus, you can ruminate, muse, cogitate, think about, mull, ponder, contemplate and chew over all these word associations and meanings until you finally discover that new idea.
And I'm spent*.
*done, dunski, dunzo, donions, doneburgers
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