A thesaurus is a special type of dictionary. It lists words in alphabetical order. A dictionary has definitions that tell what each word means. In a thesaurus, words are listed with synonyms.
A synonym is a word that has a similar meaning as another word. “Big” and “large” are synonyms. Both words mean that the size of an object is more than average.
People use synonyms when they speak or write. Sometimes synonyms help writers avoid repeating words. When describing a party, a person could say that the food was good; the music was good; and everyone had a good time. But that sounds boring! Synonyms for good, such as wonderful and excellent, can make the party sound more interesting.
Speakers and writers also use synonyms to be more precise. For example, food can be delicious or tasty rather than just good. Word choice is when a person picks the best word to communicate their message.
There are different types of synonyms. The types tell how closely related the meanings of two words are. Two kinds of synonyms are absolute and partial.
Absolute synonyms are words that mean exactly the same thing. Either word can be used without changing the meaning. Small and little are absolute synonyms.
Partial synonyms are words that mean almost the same thing. However, there is a distinction between them. For example, cold and freezing are similar, but freezing is usually describing an even lower temperature than cold. Partial synonyms can also include words that tell a specific type. So flower and rose are synonyms, but a rose is a specific type of flower.
When a speaker or writer is looking for synonyms, they can use a thesaurus. Originally, like dictionaries, thesauri (the plural form of thesaurus) were printed books. However, today, they are often digital resources. Word processing programs have a thesaurus built in, so writers can look for better words while they are writing or editing. People can also download a thesaurus app on their smartphones.