Roget's Thesaurus

"The man is not wholly evil- he has a Thesaurus in his cabin"

(quote from the J. M. Barrie's children's book; "Peter Pan" in his description of "Captain Hook".)

Dr. Peter Mark Roget


philologist, scientist, physician

The name Roget could soon become a virtual synonym for the word "synonym".

For those who use Roget's Thesaurus it is one of the three most important books ever printed...along with The Bible and Webster's Dictionary.

In order to communicate one's exact intention...or one's precise meaning, the Thesaurus, being a list of synonyms or verbal equivalents, is a necessary tool.

The first draft of the Thesaurus was written in 1805, two years before Webster started on his dictionary. However for a period of 47 years Dr. Roget used his manuscript as his personal, secret, treasure trove. Not until he was 73 years old did he decide to reveal and publish this great manuscript.

Since 1852, Roget's Thesaurus has never been out of print. In fact, each succeeding edition has increased the popularity of the work. The original 15,000 words included in the 1805 manuscript has increased to over a quarter of a million in the 1992 edition (the tenth printing). With such an increase in size, it is encouraging to notice that the basic content still remains intact..... for example, where the 1805 Thesaurus traces the word:

existence: "Ens, entity, being, existence, essence...", the 1992 Thesaurus contains

existence: "existence, being, entity, ens,...essence..."

The Karpeles Manuscript Library also preserves a small archive of Dr. Roget's manuscripts including the complete original manuscript of Roget's Thesaurus

Among the other items preserved in the Roget archive is his autobiography, his doctoral diploma and his birth certificate.

From the Preface to the first edition of Roget's Thesaurus, he states:

"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. I had often during that long interval found this little collection, scanty and imperfect though it was, of much use to me in literary composition, and often contemplated its extension and improvement; but a sense of the magnitude of the task, amidst a multiple of other avocations, deterred me from the attempt. Since my retirement from the duties of Secretary to the Royal Society, however, finding myself possessed of more leisure, and believing that a repertory of which I had myself experienced the advantage might, when amplified, prove useful to others, I resolved to embark in an undertaking which, for the last three or four years, has given me incessant occupation . . . "