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Writing skills

How to use a thesaurus

Explainer Video

Tutor: Sadia


How to use a thesaurus

​​In a nutshell 

When writing, you may want to find a different way of saying something and for this a thesaurus is the perfect resource. A thesaurus is a book or website containing words called synonymsSynonyms are related words that mean the same or similar to the word you are interested in. In this summary, you will learn the features of a thesaurus and how to look up a word to find its synonyms. 

Features of a thesaurus

Alongside each word in a thesaurus is a list of synonyms and each word has multiple synonyms associated with its meaning. Words are listed in alphabetical order, like in a dictionary, for easy reference. 


​​big (adjective)

big, considerable, enormous, great, huge, immense, large, sizeable, substantial.

genius (noun)

Note, in this example, there is 'genius' meaning ' the skill or gift of being genius' and 'an individual who is a genius'. Therefore, there are two separate list of synonyms.

1. brilliance, brains, cleverness, flair, wisdom.

2. expert, highbrow, intellectual, master, mastermind, prodigy.

lovely (adjective)

appealing, attractive, beautiful, good-looking, handsome, pretty, sweet, 

How to use a thesaurus

To find a word in the thesaurus, look at its first two or three letters. Remember that sometimes words are not always spelled the way they sound. If you're unsure how to spell the word you are looking for, start searching under the letter it starts with (or sounds like it starts with), then progress to other letters if necessary.


The word sugar sounds like it could be spelled with a  sh like shut or ch like chute, but you will not find the word under sh or ch in the dictionary.

What else does sugar sound like? It sounds like sure! The spelling su can make a shoo sound too.

If you check in the thesaurus under s, alongside the su words you will find the word sugar.

Tip: You may need to look for the root word when searching in a thesaurus.


‘Rightfully’ might not be there, but ‘right’ will be. You can then change the synonyms you find into adverbs by adding -ly.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Are words listed in alphabetical order in a thesaurus?

What is a synonym?

What is a thesaurus?


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