Roget's Thesaurus: the first of its kind

Today marks the 163rd anniversary of the publication of Roget's Thesaurus. Look on your bookshelves and you may well have this very tome nestled amongst your other treasured reading materials.

To mark the occasion, we have taken a look at some interesting facts about the thesaurus, which has helped us learn about language and to become worldly with words.

  • The Roget's Thesaurus was written by, and named after, Peter Mark Roget, who was born in London on 18 January 18 1779.


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  • The Thesaurus was compiled from as early as 1805, but was mainly used by Roget for his own personal use. Not until nearly 50 years later, when Roget was 73 years old, did it become published.


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  • The first edition of the thesaurus had a print run of 1,000 and was originally named Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases.


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  • The original edition had 15,000 words, with each edition thereafter being even larger. The 1992 edition, for example, had over 250,000 words.


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  • Roget's Thesaurus has never been out of print since it was first published in 1852, and by 2002, over 32 million copies had been sold.


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  • 28 editions of the thesaurus were published during Roget's lifetime.


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  • Roget's was the first such book to be arranged by topic and the first to encompass the semantic network of the entire language.


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  • The Thesaurus has six major headings: Abstract Relations, Space, Matter, Intellect, Volition, Affections. In the 1982 and 1987 editions, Affections has been replaced by Emotion, religion, and morality.


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  • When Roget died on September 12, 1869, his son, and then his grandson, went on to edit later editions of the thesaurus until the 1950's, after which it was sold to a publisher.


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  • The original manuscript of the thesaurus is preserved at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, in Illinois, in the United States.


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