We observe Thesaurus Day on January 18th each year in honor of its creator – Peter Mark Roget – who was born on 18th January 1779. And, while the thesaurus might seem like a tome that is stuffy, it is not so at all! Really, exploring the thesaurus is fun and more… So today I am sharing books with you that is sure to get young readers (and older readers too) excited about the thesaurus and learn words in the process!
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First, before the list of books, a bit about the thesaurus itself.
Exploring the Thesaurus: What, Why, etcs.
While we all are familiar with the thesaurus in it’s modern form, first published by Roget in 1852, it has a history far beyond that time. The word itself comes from the Greek word thēsauros, meaning “treasury” or “storehouse.” In the Middle Ages, the word “thesaurer” meant “treasurer,” or someone who took care off the storehouse or treasury. And considering that words are indeed precious, it makes sense that this word evolved to mean today’s thesaurus.
The first publication closest to today’s thesaurus was most likely Philo of Byblos’s “On Synonyms” in the 1st or 2nd century CE. The Sanskrit language has the Amarakosha, a thesaurus in verse, dating to the 6th century. While the literal meaning of “Amarakosha” can mean “immortal treasure,” from the Sanskrit words amara (“immortal”) and kosha (“treasure, casket, pail, collection, dictionary”), in this case, it could also refer to the “kosha” compiled by Amara (short for the ancient Indian scholar Amarasimha).
Many synonym dictionaries made their way to the public over the years (from John Wilkins’ Alphabetical Dictionary in 1668 to George Crabb’s English Synonyms Explained in 1818. However, the use of the word “thesaurus” to indicate a collection of synonyms finally happened with Roget’s Thesaurus.
Peter Mark Roget officially started the book in 1848 and finished in 1852 with 15,000 words. The book’s full original title was “Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.” He originally started this compilation in 1805 and restarted work on it with an aim to publish it after he retired from his work as a physician.
And since that first publication, Roget’s Thesaurus has never been out of print, though it has seen many updates, and has grown in size. Many other options are also available now for those who are looking for a thesaurus. Plus, there are both general and specialized thesauri as well (for example, one for lawyers, authors, writers, cooks, for the senses, feelings, geographies, and so many more!!).
And yes, fun variations as well. So now let us go about
Exploring the Thesaurus Through These Books
For Young Ones (and Older Readers Too)
Boris Ate a Thesaurus
Boris Ate a Thesaurus by Neil Klayman (Author) and Barry Chung (Illustrator) (4 – 9 years, and up)
Description: This is a story about a young boy who eats a thesaurus and suddenly starts speaking in synonyms. Find out what happens next…
My Quick Thoughts: Oh my! Boris sure was hungry for words, and this delightful book shows how powerful a thesaurus is. Love how the really cool synonyms appear as part of this humorous and clever story.
The Right Word
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant (Author) and Melissa Sweet (Illustrator) (7 years and up)
Description: Readers of all ages will marvel at Roget’s life, depicted through lyrical text and brilliantly detailed illustrations. This elegant book celebrates the joy of learning and the power of words.
My Quick Thoughts: Collage style artwork full of details and colors accompany Bryant’s brilliant narrative to tell us the story of Peter Mark Roget and his thesaurus. A must-read.
Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos (Author) and T. L. McBeth (Illustrator) (4 – 8 years, and up)
Description: Stegothesaurus’s love of language has always put him at odds with his stegosaurus brothers. So when he makes a friend―an allothesaurus―who is just as verbose as he, he is happy, thrilled, and ecstatic! But … what happens next?
My Quick Thoughts: Can I say “tots adorbs”? This book is really so! And LOL-worthy too. I know, I know, using shortened slang and acronyms to talk about a cute story of a verbose stegosaurus is kind of weird, but it really is “tots adorbs” in every way!
Thesaurus Has a Secret
Thesaurus Has a Secret by Anya Glazer (Author/Illustrator) (4 – 8 years, and up)
Description: Thesaurus is an ordinary dinosaur. A very ordinary dinosaur . . . who just happens to love words. And the other dinos know that’s just who he is. But behind his verbose and fancy language, Thesaurus has also been keeping something absolutely, very, extremely top secret.
My Quick Thoughts: Read the book to learn Thesaurus’ top secret! A kind of contrary hint: the saying that “dinosaurs didn’t read so they went extinct!” Overall, a cute and fun vocabulary builder that also shares the message to be who you are bravely!
Thesaurus Rex by Laya Steinberg (Author) and Debbie Harter (Illustrator) (3 – 7 years, and up)
Description: Follow this mischievous dinosaur as he frolics, rollicks, frisks and romps. Each colorful page introduces simple synonyms and a fun-filled way to build vocabulary and word recognition.
My Quick Thoughts: Cute color illustrations accompany rhyming, synonyms-filled text to take us through a day in Thesaurus Rex’s life. Short, yet so much to learn and explore!
For Older Readers (and Even Young Ones If They Want to)
Say It Like Miss Austen
Say it Like Miss Austen: A Jane Austen Phrase Thesaurus by Stefan Scheuermann
Description: This book is a guide to speaking and writing like a Jane Austen character. With more than 1,400 of Jane Austen’s most elegant and witty phrases, quoted directly from her major novels, unfinished work, short stories, juvenilia, and personal letters, all placed into categories of expressional needs, with translations into the common phrases of today, this phrase thesaurus is a guide to conversing like the heroes, heroines, and villains of Jane Austen’s sublime body of work.
My Quick Thoughts from what I have read so far: Delightful, innovative, and informative all at once!
The Well-Spoken Thesaurus
The Well-Spoken Thesaurus: The Most Powerful Ways to Say Everyday Words and Phrases (A Vocabulary Builder for Adults to Improve Your Writing and Speaking Communication Skills) by Tom Heehler
Description: The Well-Spoken Thesaurus is your guide to eloquence, featuring lessons from some of the most articulate speakers of our past and present. While a common thesaurus provides only synonyms as mere word-for-word equivalents, The Well-Spoken Thesaurus is filled with (‘awash in,’ ‘instilled with,’ ‘dense with,’ ‘rich in’) dynamic reinventions of standard words and phrases.
My Quick Thoughts: No words to say how much I am loving it (yes, I know! no words for a book all about words!). A book that will delight writers (and readers) with all it offers, and what it offers is a lot, substantial, tremendous, immense indeed!
Related Reads and More
- January 18th is also Winnie-the-Pooh Day in honor of A.A.Milne. So here is a list of 10+ Books For Those Who Love Winnie-the-Pooh.
- Found this free activity guide for the book ‘Boris Ate a Thesaurus‘
- Many Wonderful Ways to Use Words
- And just for fun: here are synonyms for the word “thesaurus”
- reference book, lexicon, glossary, onomasticon, terminology, storehouse of words, treasury of words, word list,…..
And Now, the End of This Post
As always, I end this post, dear reader, by asking you if you have read any of these featured books? If yes, would love to hear your thoughts on them. If not, which one would you pick first? And yes, any recommendations for similar books? Any favorite thesaurus?
16 thoughts on “Exploring the Thesaurus is Fun and More!”
Vidya, thank you for a delightful post! You have again brought a lush resource base to your topic, and smoothly shared it with a sense of humor. Beautiful. When I was a kid, I don’t think there were thesaurus-type resources for children. But when I was in college and forward, I had a thesaurus — from Roget. How wonderful to learn that the practice of collecting and disseminating synonyms goes back so far.
Hi there! I loovvvvvveeee my thesaurus! I use it alllll the time. I also use it via Google… but it still counts!
Thanks for sharing and I’m looking to get a couple of the books you suggested- Jane Austin’s & The Well Spoken books.
Good luck in the UBC!
I think that I would like to have a pet Thesaurus Rex. It would be very adorable and it would frolic happily amidst the books. And, if I feed it well, maybe it will give me some fun words as food for thought. Or am I supposed to give it fun words as food for thought. I don’t know, but it would be delightful to find out. Unless, of course, the cat looks at it and hisses because she doesn’t love words, as much as I do!
Oh yes, Alice!! totally love your comments… and a pet thesaurus definitely is welcome at my home too
I use https://www.powerthesaurus.org/ and I like it very much. I never knew there were so many children’s books about thesaurus’s.
I use that as well often, as I otherwise end up using a few favorite words many times over
what a fun list of Thesaurus themed books. I love all the dinosaur versions though the Boris eating the thesaurus would make me laugh the most.
As for the “adult” versions, Darcee, my wife loves Jane Austen so the Say It Like Miss Austen may be her next Valentine’s gift
🙂 That was a fun read indeed as he went around talking in synonyms throughout the book.. and getting that book for your wife might mean you hearing her speak Austenish for a while 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing this list of thesaurus themed children books here, personally I’m interested to check out “Thesaurus Has a Secret by Anya Glazer” for my little niece. Cheers Siennylovesdrawing
glad you found books you want to check out… I am sure your niece will enjoy those reads..
I love when I find a perfect gift for loved ones without searching! I’m primarily thinking of the ones with dinosaurs. 🙂
So glad I could help you find a gift (and books are my fav gift of all, to give and receive!)
I would love to read Stegothesaurus.; I need to practice my acronyms and shortned words (or slang?) to be able to understand my kids’ language.
We do need a specialized, constantly updated thesaurus to understand our kids all the time 🙂
These are interesting and love the book suggestions for old readers. Thank you for sharing it!
I never knew there were thesaurus books for kids too. I would love my kid to read a couple of these as it would be a great help for him.