Today’s word comes courtesy of the reading my daughter and I have been doing in our Greek New Testament. We came across the word for treasure (thesauros), we both went, “Hey! That sounds like ‘thesaurus’!” To which I of course said, “Well, maybe we use it as ‘a treasury of words.'” Which I thought would be pretty cute, but I wasn’t convinced I was right.
As it happens, though…I was!
Thesaurus has been in English since the 1820s as “a treasury, a storehouse,” and from the 1840s as “an encyclopedia.” Interestingly, though, an alternate spelling of thesaurie has been used by dictionary compilers since the 1590s! Roget was the first to create a version of “words arranged by order of sense” rather than alphabetic, definitional listings, which he first compiled in 1852.
Some other old versions of this word include thesaurer as “treasurer” and thesaur as “treasure” in the 1400-1500s. I’m not certain how we came to replace that H with an R, but the words are certainly close even in spelling, aren’t they?
Are you a fan of a thesaurus? I use them frequently in my writing (digital versions) and always had a paperback version on hand when I was a teen!