UK: World-first historical thesaurus

After 45 years painstaking work by the English Language department at the University of Glasgow, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary will be published this autumn. The thesaurus will be the first produced for any language in the world, containing almost every word in English from Old English to the present day.

The project was instigated by Professor Michael Samuels in 1964 and has been led since his retirement by Professor Christian Kay. It is the culmination of hundreds of thousands of hours work collecting data, first on paper slips and latterly on computer, by hundreds of research assistants, postgraduate students, university staff and volunteers.

Kay said: "One of the best things about the project was working with so many different people over the years."

The compilers say the impact of the new thesaurus will reach far beyond the study of language offering fresh perspectives to scholars in many other fields including anthropology, history and culture.

They say the completed work contains nearly 800,000 meanings, organised into more than 236,000 categories and subcategories and collected together in two substantial volumes.

"It provides a unique resource for scholars researching linguistic and literary history, the history of the language, social history, and more, and is a perfect complement to the OED itself, allowing the words in the OED to be cross-referenced and viewed in wholly new ways."

Full details of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, including sample pages, are available here: www.oup.com