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The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, the First Historical Thesaurus in Any Language


In October 2009 Oxford University Press published as a printed book the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary with Additional Material from A Thesaurus of Old English, edited by Christian Kay, Jane Roberts, Michael Samuels, and Irene Wotherspoon.

Forty years in the making, this 3952 page work was the first historical thesaurus to be compiled for any language, and the first to include almost the entire vocabulary of English, from Old English to the present. It was also the largest thesaurus resource in the world, covering more than 920,000 words and meanings, based on the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Historical Thesaurus lists synonyms listed with dates of first recorded use in English, in chronological order, with earliest synonyms first. For obsolete words, the Thesaurus also included the last recorded use of each word.

The work used a specially devised thematic system of classification. Its comprehensive index enabled complete cross-referencing of nearly one million words and meanings. It contained a comprehensive sense inventory of Old English and a fold-out color chart which showed the top levels of the classification structure. 


Timeline Themes