The Oxford Thesaurus: American Edition

The Oxford Thesaurus: American Edition

by Laurence Urdang, Thesaurus Oxford

Praised in The New Yorker as the "lexicographer to the world," Oxford is renowned as the world's leading dictionary maker, the home of the redoubtable Oxford English Dictionary as well as an impressive array of English, foreign language, and subject area dictionaries. An important member in our family of language reference is The Oxford Thesaurus of


Praised in The New Yorker as the "lexicographer to the world," Oxford is renowned as the world's leading dictionary maker, the home of the redoubtable Oxford English Dictionary as well as an impressive array of English, foreign language, and subject area dictionaries. An important member in our family of language reference is The Oxford Thesaurus of American English, compiled by one of America's pre-eminent lexicographers, Laurence Urdang.
Urdang and Oxford have rethought from the ground up the way a thesaurus is organized and used, to create the most authoritative, precise, up to date, and helpful synonym finder available. There are at present two types of thesauruses, based on access systems: the Roget's style, which groups words according to concepts (a viable but awkward system which usually requires considerable flipping back and forth from index to main text), and the Dictionary style, which groups words alphabetically (which allows fast access if the word you have in mind is a headword; but if not, you're stumped). The Oxford Thesaurus of American English combines the best of both styles with a unique double-access system: we've organized the headwords alphabetically—so that more often than not, you can turn right to the main text to find synonyms—but we include an extensive synonym index, which lists over 100,000 words in the main text that are not headwords. Thus writers enjoy both the comprehensiveness of a Roget's and the ease of use of a Dictionary style, in one authoritative volume.
The double-access system allows the most precise word selection with the least effort. And to enhance precision even more, Urdang has added several other features to help writers pick the best word for each context. If a headword has more than one sense, he breaks synonyms down into groups, and within each group, he orders words according to how closely they match the meaning of the headword. Moreover, he illustrates each group with a sample sentence, so you can be sure you are making your selection from the right list of alternatives. Urdang provides complete coverage of current English, and for those desiring a richer vocabulary, he supplements the standard synonyms with unusual words and phrases, including regional and idiomatic expressions, slang, colloquialisms, and so forth. And finally, he includes a cross-referencing system within the main text which links related groups of synonyms.
Fast and easy to use, up to date, and authoritative, The Oxford Thesaurus of American English is an essential tool for anyone who wants to write with more variety, color, and precision. It is a must for all writers, whether novice or expert, student or teacher, business executive or journalist.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
These two thesauruses take different approaches to the problem of finding alternative words with similar meanings. Roget's 150-year-old plan of organizing words within eight broad classes has been revised by Chapman to create a simpler, more natural, and contemporary arrangement of 15 new classes. These classes (e.g., body, feelings, place) are further divided into 1,073 categories (e.g., birth, pleasure, space). The advantage of such a scheme is that words with close semantic relationships are grouped together by logical category. This stimulates word associations, the closest of which are found within clusters or domains set off by semicolons. These features are consistent with prior editions of this thesaurus, as is the task of approaching the appropriate category through the use of an extensive index. Urdang's arrangement for The Oxford Thesaurus eliminates the double search by alphabetically listing headwords (frequently used words) followed by synonyms ordered according to how closely they match the meaning of the headword. Semicolons separate subgroups of synonyms, and each group has at least one illustrative sentence. Despite its being an ``American edition,'' British and other geographical variations are given much attention. A synonym index may be referred to if the word in mind is not a headword. This book is initially easier and faster to use than Roget's , though it does contain more elaborate instructions. The organization of Roget's is more complex but may prove more utilitarian overall. Instructions are brief, and typefaces and format are more legible. A third variation in thesaurus arrangement is found in Barbara A. Kipfer's Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus in Dictionary Form ( LJ 9/1/92). All three thesauruses are attractively priced works edited by highly qualified lexicographers and featuring current usage, and all three are recommended for reference collections.-- Stanley P. Hodge, Ball State Univ. Lib., Muncie, Ind.
School Library Journal
YA-- A milestone in the evolution of the thesaurus. The extensive, opening, dictionary-style section presents quick access to synonyms of the entry words. A number groups together all the synonyms of similar meaning, and a sentence using the entry word is provided for each definition. Many more synonyms are listed here than in either the Roget's II (Houghton, 1980) or the Random House Thesaurus, College Edition (Random, 1984). However, an accurate conclusion comparing the Oxford to the original subject-arranged Roget's International Thesaurus (Harper, 1984) is impossible: one is more thorough on one word, the other more thorough on another. The last third of the book is a comprehensive synonym index referring users back to the word entry and number to find the appropriate choice of synonyms. The index is very extensive, listing more words than the opening section. Both British and American slang is identified. A great choice for high-school students as it provides both the simplicity of the dictionary format and the comprehensiveness of the old Roget's . --Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Zom Zoms
Compiled by Laurence Urdang (an editor of "The Random House Dictionary of the English Language"), this thesaurus contains 650,000 words. The main A-Z section presents headwords selected on the basis of their frequency of use in the language and, for the most part, they represent basic forms of a word (i.e., "live" is a headword, but "living" and "livable" are not). Entries include part-of-speech designations followed by numbered synonym lists. Each numbered list groups synonyms by sense and is illustrated by an example sentence. Within numbered lists, synonyms that have their own main entries are marked with a symbol and, where appropriate, usage and dialect labels are provided. Within a sequence of numbered senses, more commonly used words are listed first, followed by less commonly used or more colorful words (e.g., the first synonym listed for "fracture" is "break"; the last two are "rift" and "cleave"). Spellings of words are those preferred by American writers, with frequently used American variants also indicated This is a straightforward and easy-to-use resource. The instructions for use are a model of clarity, and the index is especially well designed; it includes phrases as well as plural and tense forms, and its referencing system leads users directly to appropriate numbered senses within main entries. In terms of number of words included, "Oxford" compares favorably with "Roget's International Thesaurus" (5th ed. ["RBB" O 1 92]), the major difference being that "Roget's" employs a classified rather than alphabetical approach. Access to specific words in the two books overlaps but does not entirely duplicate. For example, the index to "Oxford" includes "infirmary" ("Roget's" doesn't); the index to "Roget's" includes "infix" ("Oxford" doesn't). "Oxford"'s illustrative sentences will help nonnative speakers select appropriate synonyms from lists (a problem when undifferentiated synonyms are presented). Having this thesaurus in a library lessens (but probably does not eliminate) the need for "Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms", which presents fewer words but thoroughly defines subtle differences in meaning. "Oxford" also compares favorably to "Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus in Dictionary Form" ["RBB" O 15 92], which leads to more synonyms with the use of its "Concept Index" and gives brief definitions but lacks example sentences. The typeface in "Oxford" is smaller than that used in these other two new thesauruses "The Oxford Thesaurus" is highly recommended for all large public and academic libraries (even those with the other three titles mentioned above), and small libraries might also seriously consider purchase.
Lexicographer Urdang (founder and editor, Verbatim: the language quarterly) has rethought the way a thesaurus should be organized, and has created a double-access system: headwords are organized alphabetically in the main text; and an extensive synonym index lists some 250,000 additional words and phrases. Thus, users enjoy both ready access to the most commonly sought synonyms (in the A-Z section) and the advantages of a detailed index for more exhaustive searches. Thumb index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
American ed
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.56(h) x 2.06(d)

Meet the Author

About the Editor:
Laurence Urdang is a distinguished lexicographer and publisher, founder of Market House Books, and editor of Verbatim, the Language Quarterly. He was Editorial Director of The Collins English Dictionary, Managing Editor of The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, and Editorial Director of The Longman Synonym Dictionary.

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