The term “thesaurus” comes from the Greek word “thēsauros,” which means “treasure” or “storehouse.” This is derived from the Greek root “tithenai,” meaning “to put” or “to place.”

1. Proto-Indo-European (PIE)

The PIE root “*dhe-” means “to put” or “to place.”

2. Greek

From the PIE root, the Greek word “tithenai” (τίθημι) developed, meaning “to put” or “to place.” The noun “thēsauros” (θησαυρός) means “treasure” or “storehouse,” indicating a place where valuable things are kept.

3. Latin

The Greek term “thēsauros” was adopted into Latin as “thesaurus,” retaining the meaning of “treasure” or “storehouse.”

4. Middle English (c. 11th to 15th century CE)

The Latin “thesaurus” was adopted into Middle English as “thesaurus,” meaning “a treasury or storehouse.”

5. Modern English (from the 16th century CE to present)

The term “thesaurus” evolved into its current form and pronunciation, coming to specifically refer to a book or resource that lists words grouped together according to similarity of meaning (synonyms and antonyms).

Phonetic Evolution

Over time, the pronunciation of “thesaurus” has remained relatively stable from Greek to Modern English.

Usage Examples

  • “Thesaurus is often used to describe a reference book that lists words grouped together by similarity of meaning.”
  • “Another example of ‘thesaurus’ in a sentence is ‘She used a thesaurus to find synonyms for the word “happy.”‘”

Cultural or Historical Notes

The development of the word “thesaurus” was significantly influenced by the compilation of reference works that serve as repositories of knowledge. The modern use of “thesaurus” to describe a reference book listing synonyms and antonyms became popularized in the 19th century, particularly with the publication of Peter Mark Roget’s “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases” in 1852.

The word “thesaurus” reflects the concept of a storehouse of knowledge, emphasizing the importance of organization and categorization in understanding and using language. It underscores the role of thesauri in enhancing vocabulary, writing, and communication skills.