Why is a powerful thesaurus essential? English, with its long history of absorbing terminology from a wealth of other tongues, is a language particularly rich in synonyms–words so close in meaning that in many contexts they are interchangeable, like the nouns “tongue” and “language” in the first part of this sentence. Synonyms are words that have “the same or nearly the same” meaning as one another, but there is an important difference between “the same” and “nearly the same.”
Noun synonyms sometimes mean exactly the same thing. A “bureau” is a “chest of drawers.” If you ask for a soda on the east coast of the U.S., you’ll get the same drink that asking for a pop will get you farther west. The object referred to remains constant. But forest and wood, though often interchangeable, have different shades of meaning: a forest tends to be larger and denser than a wood. When we move from nouns to other parts of speech, we almost always find subtle but important differences among synonyms: although their meanings overlap, they differ in emphasis and connotation. A sunset might be described equally well as “beautiful” or “resplendent,” but a beautiful baby would not usually be described as resplendent, which implies an especially dazzling appearance. The verbs “make” and “construct” mean roughly the same thing, but one is more likely to make a cake, involving a chemical change in its components when baked, but construct a building, preserving the shape of many of the materials that go into it.
Lists of synonyms are useful when we are struggling to write, searching for just the right word, but can’t we do better than that? Thesaurus Rex by Dictionary.com has revolutionized that “list of synonyms” into a dynamic experience that sorts and filters words by their senses, relevance, complexity, and length. What are senses? Think about the word “light.” Just that one word has a range of meanings: illuminated, context, not heavy, funny, to start a fire, and so on. These are the word’s senses. On Thesaurus Rex, once you select which sense of a word you are aiming for, our proprietary algorithms find the closest synonym match. You can further refine the results by complexity. Are you looking to impress your boss or professor? Try incandescent. Writing a note to your seven-year-old cousin? Use shining. (Of course, you can still sort words in the traditional alphabetical format if you prefer.)
Thesaurus Rex also allows you to save your favorite synonyms by your search query. Do you constantly look up synonyms for important? Now you can save your ideal synonyms for all those tricky but ubiquitous words. Thesaurus Rex by Dictionary.com is here to simultaneously simplify and enliven your language, because every word search should also be a treasure hunt!
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