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n. (thesauruses, thesauri, pl.) ~ 1. A list of words with related meanings, including synonyms and antonyms. - 2. A specialized vocabulary of words and phrases, commonly used for indexing, that indicates a preferred term among synonyms and shows relationships between terms.


A thesaurus is distinguished from dictionaries and glossaries, the latter not establishing a preferred term among synonymous terms. A thesaurus often contains nothing more than headings and their relationships, where dictionaries and glossaries usually contain definitions and annotations on word use.

(Z39.19) A thesaurus is a controlled vocabulary arranged in a known order and structured so that equivalence, homographic, hierarchical, and associative relationships among terms are displayed clearly and identified by standardized relationship indicators that are employed reciprocally. The primary purposes of a thesaurus are (a) to facilitate retrieval of documents and (b) to achieve consistency in the indexing of written or otherwise recorded documents and other items, mainly for postcoordinate information storage and retrieval systems.