Roget's Thesaurus

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Roget's Thesaurus is a widely used English-language thesaurus, created in 1805 by Peter Mark Roget (1779–1869), British physician, natural theologian and lexicographer. It was released to the public on 29 April 1852.[1] The original edition had 15,000 words, and each new edition has been larger.[2] Roget was inspired by the Utilitarian teachings of Jeremy Bentham and wished to help "those who are painfully groping their way and struggling with the difficulties of composition [...] this work processes to hold out a helping hand".[3] The Karpeles Library Museum houses the original manuscript in its collection.[2]

The name "Roget" is trademarked in parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom.[4] By itself, it is not protected in the United States, where use of the name "Roget" in the title of a thesaurus does not necessarily indicate any relationship to Roget directly; it has come to be seen as a generic thesaurus name.[5] With its hegemonic status, it became "a mark of civility". J.M. Barrie stated "[Captain Hook] is not wholly evil [h]e has a Thesaurus in his cabin".[3] Indeed, Sylvia Plath considered it her desert island book over the Bible.[3]

Roget described his thesaurus in the foreword to the first edition:

It is now nearly fifty years since I first projected a system of verbal classification similar to that on which the present work is founded. Conceiving that such a compilation might help to supply my own deficiencies, I had, in the year 1805, completed a classed catalogue of words on a small scale, but on the same principle, and nearly in the same form, as the Thesaurus now published.[6]

Roget's Thesaurus is composed of six primary classes.[7] Each class is composed of multiple divisions and then sections. This may be conceptualized as a tree containing over a thousand branches for individual "meaning clusters" or semantically linked words. Although these words are not strictly synonyms, they can be viewed as colours or connotations of a meaning or as a spectrum of a concept. One of the most general words is chosen to typify the spectrum as its headword, which labels the whole group.

Roget's schema of classes and their subdivisions is based on the philosophical work of Leibniz (see Leibniz—Symbolic thought), itself following a long tradition of epistemological work starting with Aristotle. Some of Aristotle's Categories are included in Roget's first class "abstract relations".

The book is updated regularly and each edition is heralded as a gauge to contemporary terms; but each edition keeps true to the original classifications established by Roget.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A History of Roget's Thesaurus Werner Hüllen
  2. ^ a b Roget's Thesaurus Karcpeles Library
  3. ^ a b c d The Week (2012). How to be Really Well Informed in Minutes: All you need to know about everything that matters from the popular 'Briefing' columns. Croydon: Ebury Press. pp. 74–77. ISBN 978-0-09194-706-4.
  4. ^ Case details for Trade Mark 2055476
  5. ^ "The name has become synonymous with the Thesaurus, yet Dr Roget himself is a shadowy figure." Lloyd 1982, p.xiii
  6. ^ Lloyd 1982, p.xix
  7. ^ Table of contents Archived March 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine


  • Roget, Peter Mark (1982) [1852], Lloyd, Susan M. (ed.), Roget's Thesaurus, Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex: Longman Group Limited, ISBN 0-582-55635-X
  • Roget, Peter Mark (1962) [1852], Dutch, Robert A. (ed.), The Original Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Americanized ed.), New York: Longmans, Green & Co./Dell Publishing Co., Inc.

External links[edit]