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Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary: With additional material from A Thesaurus of Old English Hardcover – Oct 15 2009

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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Don't be a "Dasiberd", Buy this Thesaurus Jan. 4 2010
By Wild Bill - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading a review that described this thesaurus as being written in a code of its own, virtually unintelligible, I felt compelled to provide some updated information. When I first received the thesaurus I found looking up words with the provided thematic system of classification somewhat daunting. The Historical Thesaurus of the OED uses a thematic system of classification and is organized into three major sections: I The external world; II The mental world; III The social world. From these broad catagories you can simply narrow down your search into more specific catagories. An example of this structure is 02 The mind ....02.02 Emotion....02.02.22 Love.... Terms of endearment.... Overall, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary contains almost 800,000 meanings, organized into more than 236,000 categories and subcategories. The concept is fantastic and if you are having trouble coming up with a synonym the thematic system is very effective albeit somewhat slow.

It wasn't until several days into using the thesaurus that I stumbled into the second volume. The entire volume (all 2,109 pages of it) are dedicated to words with references to sections in volume 1 for their synonyms. Volume 1 is the Thesaurus itself, organized according to the semantic categories outlined above, while Volume 2 is an alphabetical Index listing the majority of the synonyms in Volume 1. You can approach the content of the Thesaurus in different ways: either by looking up a single lexical item in the Index and be directed to the appropriate section in the main Thesaurus, or by browsing by semantic category directly, and seeing words in their context of both historical development and the overall organization of meaning.

To get a flavor of the workings of the thesaurus and a sample page go to Oxford University Press web site (Sorry but Amazon will not let me insert the link, just think "OED", then search the site for historical thesaurus, then click on the link Read more about "the largest thesaurus in the world" link).

I was very hesitant to shell out $$$ for book I didn't know if I would like, but retrospectively I don't regret the purchase and have had a lot of fun with it. I also purchased the CD ROM version 4.0 of the dictionary Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Version 4.0 (Windows & Mac) and have found it to be equally useful. I believe anyone who found this thesaurus to be an "Indecipherable Code" may not have explored Volume 2. Hope this review helps.

dasiberd Obs.

Also dasy-, daysy-, dasa-, dose-, dosa-, dossi-, doziberd(e, dosebeirde.

[The better form is prob. dasyberd = dazy-beard: see dazy a. inert, dull. Mätzner compares LG. dösbârt, and the same notion appears in Lowland Sc. dulbart, dulbert = dull-beard, dullard.]

A stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A New Introduction to Your Mind Jan. 18 2010
By Fog Eater - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was about to send this back because I had the same reservations expressed in other reviews. The relatively small print! The bizarre organization! I had a very negative initial reaction. I put the two heavy and unwieldy volumes back in their box, wrapped them up and had them ready to send back to Amazon. Then I decided not to be too hasty and to give the volumes a second look. On the second look -- both volumes open side by side -- I fell in love.
The Oxford Historical Thesaurus is an inexhaustible intellectual gift to all English speakers. The lucidity of the categories gives you a new way to approach your language and a new way to approach the concepts in your own mind. Being able to watch words evolve from Old English to our modern time allows you to see the arrival and development of cherished concepts -- the slow blooming of a branch as bud after bud opens off the central stalk. In the end even the typeface is pretty easily readable, (despite its relatively small font size). These books are an enduring invitation to jubilation.
Users of English owe an immense debt of gratitude to the researchers and compilers at the University of Glasgow and the University of London and all the teams of people who helped them over the long years of their labor.What they have built strikes me as far bigger even than their labors - a truly inexhaustible gift to English speakers.
48 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Worth the Wait. Oct. 6 2009
By Sam - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, Amazon has the wrong dimensions. Each book is about 11.5" by 9" with the entire cased set equaling 11.75" by 9" by 5.25". For those of us who own the Deluxe Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the height is a perfect match with the depth being just barely .25" shorter. Essentially, they match. The slipcase is not the usual shiny blue used on the Compact OED or in the Deluxe Shorter. It is made of the same material as the cloth hardcover book binding. This set is heavy and, as usual, Amazon uses virtually no packing materials so be prepared for damage in shipping as the slipcase will dent.

The above description provided by Amazon pretty much describes the text, although the format is very unusual so be prepared to spend some time reading the "how to" section. Otherwise it will make little sense. This book set is essentially worth it only for a reader who truly enjoys the history of English.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Great for browsing, but extremely difficult to use May 27 2011
By bgesslo7277 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Several reviews on this site laud this book as a priceless contribution to the English language and a must for all those above-average students who like big words and aren't busy writing ungrammatical sentences at college. In truth, the premise of the project is fascinating--tracking the development of concepts across time by examining the words which speakers of English have attached to those concepts. The possibilities would be endless. However, the positive reviews seem only to describe the intellectual jubilation which reviewers have felt when they BROWSE through the thesaurus, rather than actually attempt to USE it. I do not deny that browsing its pages is a pleasurable experience, but if one is interested in doing real research, the bizarre and confusing design is a monumental obstacle to overcome.

For example--I went to the thesaurus intending to investigate the development of the concept "hope." What other words have English speakers used to describe the modern concept of "hope," I wondered? How has the language changed over time in this respect? Accordingly, I opened volume II of the thesaurus, the index. I flipped to page 711 and looked at the first entry under "hope": "n.|02.01." Following the advice of an intellectually stimulated reviewer on this website, I noted down the reference and turned to volume I, the thesaurus. After spending around 45 seconds searching for the correct page, I found this: " (n.)." Delighted, I read on: "bend in coast." Hmm...that wasn't the "hope" I wanted. Oh, of course! Silly me! Section 01 is "The External World!" The "hope" I want is in Section 02, "The Mental World!" I then turned back to the index and noted down the first reference in the second section: "n." After spending another 45 seconds searching for the right page, I found "" and saw "belief, trust, confidence." That was much closer, so I read on. Seeing again that none of the entries really matched the sense of "hope" I was looking for, I turned back to the index. There were five other noun references for "hope," all on different pages, with absolutely no way to differentiate between them. Gee, isn't this fun?

If you call that kind of quest "elegant" and "intellectually stimulating," then buy this thesaurus. Unfortunately, most people call it "a complete waste of time." I honestly cannot see a way to do it any faster. Since the index does not list any meanings or distinctions of any kind between terms, it's impossible to know before turning to the thesaurus which reference you need to look for in order to find a particular concept. This is a fatal flaw.

It appears that the editors made their design decisions on the assumption that people would either only be interested in browsing or would come with research questions different from the ones I enumerated above. Yet those questions seem to me both legitimate and intuitive, and this thesaurus utterly fails to answer them. The draw of a work like this is that it's the reverse of the OED. With the OED, one can find all the meanings that a word has had over the history of the language. In theory, a historical thesaurus would reverse the process and allow one to find all the words which have been attached to certain concepts over the history of the language. If this is the case, the thesaurus should be organized by placing all historical terms under the CONTEMPORARY term for the concept. The only explanation I can come up with for this awful design is that the editors were trying to make it possible for users in the future (the far future--when words used now have new meanings) to find terms without knowing the meanings which words had when the thesaurus was originally printed. This difficulty could have been avoided by modifying subsequent editions so that they are always organized by the most contemporary usages of terms. Once again, perhaps I have misunderstood the purpose and use of these books, but I cannot fathom what other kinds of serious research questions one would bring to a work like this.

In summary: interesting to browse, almost impossible to use for historical research.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Laborious System of Locating Particular Words Jan. 15 2010
By Chris - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I agree that volume one is a pleasure to browse through. When you are at leisure, it's fun to see what words were used to refer to a particular meaning throughout the times. But when you have to use volume two (the index) to locate a particular word in volume one, it's a real pain. For example, when you want to look up "idiot" in volume one, there are eight entries listed in volume two the index. Just take the first entry, it's like this:|01. It is such a long string of similar numbers that locating it in volume one is a rather laborious process. Well, I already have so many agonizing numbers to deal with in my life that this is really the last straw.

It's OK when you just want to browse through volume one for fun. But when you want to look up a particular word, it's a rather frustrating process.

But volume one alone is such a great work that overall I would still give this item four stars.