National Thesaurus Day: What It Is

January 18 is National Thesaurus Day! Read this blog post to discover what is National Thesaurus Day, who was Dr. Peter Mark Roget, why we call it a thesaurus and how you can celebrate National Thesaurus Day.

When writing this blog post, I consulted an online thesaurus a good five times. After all, where’s the fun in writing if we can’t upgrade our sentences with the best words?

The truth is, we rely on the thesaurus more than we think. While some people may debate whether or not the thesaurus is really your friend, there’s no denying that we turn to the pages of a thesaurus when writing as naturally as the act of writing down those words.

You may search for synonyms in only dire circumstances. Or you may depend on it heavily with every paper or story that you write. Either way, the thesaurus has saved the day at least once in your life.

So why not celebrate its existence? Let’s explore what is National Thesaurus Day and how you can celebrate this word-themed literary holiday.

What is National Thesaurus Day?

We celebrate National Thesaurus Day every year on January 18—the same day as Dr. Peter Mark Roget’s birthday—as a way to honor the man who created the first modern thesaurus.

The facts are unknown as to who founded National Thesaurus Day or when it was established as one of our many literary holidays you can celebrate throughout the year. One thing is certain: the thesaurus has helped many of us improve our writing.

National Thesaurus Day gives us an opportunity to honor—praise, appreciate, celebrate, admire, applaud—the book that provides us synonyms so that we can enhance our writing, from term papers and resumes to creative stories and birthday cards.

Who was Dr. Peter Mark Roget?

No one loved creating lists more than Dr. Peter Mark Roget. As early as eight years old, Roget’s obsessive habit of compiling lists came about as a constructive way to cope with negative situations, including his lifelong battle with depression.

His talents didn’t stop there. Surprisingly, Roget’s prestigious career was not in literature but in physiology, excelling in dispensary work and lecturing. Throughout his profession, he was highly regarded for his medical intelligence both as a practicing physician and as a researcher.

When he retired in 1840, he didn’t press pause on his life. By 1846, he began compiling all the word lists he created over the years into a book that systematically categorized synonyms by classifications of quantity, time, number, relation and existence.

The first edition of his thesaurus was published in 1852, featuring 15,000 words with twenty-eight printings during his lifetime. Upon his death, the thesaurus continued to be revised and expanded by his son, then later his grandson.

Today, the thesaurus consists of more than 23,000 words organized by concepts instead of alphabetical order. The thesaurus continues to be printed and can be accessed instantly through an online synonym catalog.

Why is it Called a Thesaurus?

The word thesaurus is the Latin word meaning “treasure” or “treasure repository.” Prior to Roget’s publication, a thesaurus was considered to be a dictionary or an encyclopedia.

Because he believed his work to be a treasure repository of related words, Roget published his book of synonyms under the title Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition. It wasn’t long after its publication that the word thesaurus became popularly known for his book.

How Can I Celebrate National Thesaurus Day?

There are many ways that you can partake in this special grammar holiday:

How do you plan to celebrate National Thesaurus Day? Share your plans in the comments section below.


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