The Oxford Thesaurus - An A-Z Dictionary Of Synonyms

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The Oxford Thesaurus - An A-Z Dictionary Of Synonyms


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The Oxford Thesaurus
An A-Z Dictionary of Synonyms
INTRO Introduction
In its na
owest sense, a synonym is a word or phrase that is perfectly
substitutable in a context for another word or phrase. People who study
language professionally agree that there is no such thing as an ideal
synonym, for it is virtually impossible to find two words or phrases that
are identical in denotation (meaning), connotation, frequency,
familiarity, and appropriateness. Indeed, linguists have long noted the
economy of language, which suggests that no language permits a perfect
fit, in all respects, between any two words or phrases. Many examples of
overlapping can be cited; the more obvious ones in English are those that
eflect a duplication arising from Germanic and Romance sources, like
motherly and maternal, farming and agriculture, teach and instruct. In
such pairs the native English form is often the one with an earthier,
warmer connotation. In some instances, where a new coinage or a loanword
has been adopted inadvertently duplicating an existing term, creating
'true' synonyms, the two will quickly diverge, not necessarily in meaning
ut in usage, application, connotation, level, or all of these. Fo
example, scientists some years ago expressed dissatisfaction with the term
tidal wave, for the phenomenon was not caused by tides but, usually, by
submarine seismic activity. The word tsunami was bo
owed from Japanese in
an attempt to describe the phenomenon more accurately, but it was late
pointed out the tsunami means 'tidal wave' in Japanese. Today, the terms
exist side by side in English, the older expression still in common use,
the newer more frequent in the scientific and technical literature.
Any synonym book must be seen as a compromise that relies on the
sensitivity of its users to the idiomatic nuances of the language. In its
est applications, it serves to remind users of words, similar in meaning,
that might not spring readily to mind, and to offer lists of words and
phrases that are alternatives to and compromises for those that might
otherwise be overused and therefore redundant, repetitious, and boring.
The Oxford Thesaurus goes a step further by offering example sentences to
illustrate the uses of the headwords and their alternatives in natural,
idiomatic contexts.
Selection of headwords
Two criteria have been employed: first, headwords have been selected
ecause of their frequency in the language, on the assumption that
synonyms are more likely to be sought for the words that are most
used; second, some headwords of lower frequency have been included
ecause it would otherwise be impossible to find a suitable place to
group together what are perceived as useful sets of synonyms with
their attendant illustrative sentences. Obvious listings have been
omitted on the grounds that users of the Thesaurus can easily find
synonyms for, say, abdication by making nouns of the ve
s listed
under abdicate. This deliberate attempt to avoid duplication is
mitigated in the case of very common words. For the convenience of the
user, both shy and bashful are main entries, as are method, manner,
and mode, which, though much the same in some respects, differ in
detail and application.
In this book, however, mitigate is a main
entry but not mitigation, mistake and mistaken are main entries but
not mistakenly, etc. Where it is determined that such derivations are
neither automatic nor semantically obvious, separate listings have
een provided.
Illustrative sentences
On the principle that a word is known by the company it keeps, one o
more sentences showing the main entry word in context are provided fo
each sense discrimination. These have been carefully selected to
demonstrate the use of the main entry in a context likely to be
encountered in familiar written or spoken ordinary English.
(See also
7, below.)
Synonym lists
Each main entry is followed by one or more sense groupings, each
illustrated by one or more sentences. An effort has been made to group
the synonyms semantically as well as syntactically and idiomatically:
that is, each synonym listed within a given set should prove to be
more or less substitutable for the main entry in the illustrative
In some instances, idiomatic congruity may, unavoidably, become
strained; where it is felt to be stretched too far--though still
properly listed among its accompanying synonyms--a semicolon has been
inserted to separate sub-groups of synonyms, and, in many cases,
additional illustrative sentences have been provided. Such
sub-groupings have been confined largely to distinctions between
literal uses and figures of speech, between transitive and
intransitive ve
s, and between synonyms that differ in more subtle
aspectual characteristics of meaning or syntax. (See also 7, below.)
Not all senses of all words are covered for either or both of the
following reasons: the sense, though it exists, is relatively rare in
ordinary discourse and writing; there are no reasonable synonyms fo
Thus, this sense of mercy,
an affecting or moving of the mind in any way; a mental state
ought about by any influence; an emotion or feeling: Mercy
is an affection of the mind.
is not covered for the first reason, as it is a literary and somewhat
archaic usage. The same can be said for the sense,
a bodily state due to any influence
and for other senses listed in the largest dictionaries but rarely
encountered except in literary contexts. Even in such contexts it
would be unusual to need a synonym for this word and others like it.
Cross references
There are very few cross references between main listings in the
Where such cross references do occur, they are simple and
superior adj....3 See supercilious, above.
--n 4 See
supervisor, below.
A number of cross references occur within entries, between variant
forms of an expression. At the entry for take, for example, as one can
say either take or take it in the sense of 'understand' etc., the
option is shown in the following way:
take v...19 understand, gather, interpret, perceive,
apprehend, deduce, conclude, infer, judge, deem, assume,
suppose, imagine, see: I take him to be a fool. I take it from
your expression that you've had bad news.
33 take it: a withstand or tolerate or survive punishment o
abuse, survive: The Marines are extremely tough and can take

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