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How Can a Thesaurus Help Your Language Study?

How Can a Thesaurus Help Your Language Study?

Most learners should be familiar with using dictionaries in their language study. In the past, they were physical books, then came digital dictionaries that were easier to carry and offered more words and definitions. These days, there are a variety of apps you can use on your phone to help you learn.

But other than a good dictionary, learners shouldn’t forget about another powerful study tool: the thesaurus.

This article will look at the many benefits adding a thesaurus to your study routine can bring. Let’s start.

What is a thesaurus?

A close-up of a thesaurus, dictionary and book on English usage stacked on top of one another

Unlike a dictionary, which lists the definitions of words, a thesaurus instead lists words with similar or related meanings. Its name is based on a Latin word meaning “treasury” or “storehouse.” This refers to a place where valuable items are kept safely. In this case, the valuable items are useful words for your vocabulary!

How can a thesaurus help you study?

Increased knowledge of synonyms

A young girl reading a book

When you use a dictionary, you are looking for the meaning of a particular word. Once you understand that word and can use it comfortably, you should next try to strengthen and increase that knowledge.

For example, let’s imagine that you use a dictionary to look up the word “upscale,” an adjective for something expensive and designed for people with a lot of money. If you then look up that same word in a thesaurus, you can find words like “exclusive,” “high-end” and “luxurious.” Each of these words is useful, and learning them all will give you a richer vocabulary and more options for expressing your thoughts and opinions.

Increased knowledge of antonyms

Two colored pencils pointing in opposite directions on backgrounds of the opposite color

Thesauruses aren’t only useful for synonyms, of course. A great way to "kill two birds with one stone" is by learning synonyms and antonyms together. Sometimes this is very easy, such as when you only need to add prefixes like “un-“ or “dis-“ to get the opposite meaning. 

In other cases, you’ll need to learn all-new words, but it will be easier to remember the word pairs together than studying them all separately.

Let’s return to our “upscale” example. A good thesaurus will introduce you to useful antonyms such as “low-end,” “discount” and “cheap.”

Perhaps you already knew some of these words, but did you know that discount can be an adjective as well as a noun? And did you know that cheap can mean not only "inexpensive" but also include the negative nuance of something that is not fashionable? This is the power of a thesaurus!

Putting it together

A seated woman studying with a thesaurus while drinking tea

There are two major benefits of learning this extra vocabulary through thesauruses. The first is that you will be able to recognize and understand a much wider variety of vocabulary, some mostly used in speech and others mostly in writing. 

The other benefit is that you have many more words to choose from to express your own thoughts and ideas. Some words may be close to what you want to say, but it’s a great feeling to know you have the word that expresses your idea perfectly.

One important thing to remember is that some words are more commonly used than others. If you want to make sure you are studying the most useful vocabulary, ask your tutor about them.

Even if you don’t use the words yourself, understanding them when you hear them in conversations or read them in the news will boost your confidence and your ability to engage with a variety of English material.


While dictionaries and vocabulary apps are excellent tools that all language learners should use, don't forget about other materials that are easy to find.

Thesauruses can help you get a better understanding of common words while also boosting your vocabulary with synonyms and antonyms. Give one a try and you will definitely learn something new and useful!