Elspeth Barker

Words, Glorious Words

Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

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Oxford University Press 3,952pp £250 until 31 January 2010; £275 thereafter order from our bookshop

For forty-five years a team of linguists, primarily led by Christian Kay at the University of Glasgow, has laboured to produce the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. It contains historically organised synonyms for almost every word in the second edition of the OED, and in addition contains the whole range of Old English words that the OED does not define (the policy of the OED is not to include words that didn’t survive into Middle English; the HTOED team wanted to include the entire history of the language). It is by far the largest thesaurus ever attempted in any language.

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