Peter Mark Roget
 1779 - 1869




The present work is intended to supply, with respect to the English language, a desideratum hitherto unsupplied in any language; namely, a collection of the words it contains and of the idiomatic combinations peculiar to it, arranged, not in alphabetical order, as they are in a dictionary, but according to the ideas which they express. [1] The pur¡©pose of an ordinary dictionary is simply to explain the meaning of words; and the problem of which it professes to furnish the solution may be stated thus: The word being given, to find its signification, or the idea it is intended to convey. The object aimed at in the present undertaking is exactly the converse of this; namely the idea being given, to find the word, or words, by which that idea may be most fitly and aptly expressed. this purpose, the words and phrases of the language are here classed, not according to their sound or their ortho¡©graphy, but strictly according to their signification.

The communication of our thoughts by means of language, whether spoken or written, like every other object of mental exertion, constitutes a peculiar art, which, like other parts, cannot be acquired in any perfection but long and continued practice. Some, indeed, there are more highly gifted man others with a facility of expression, and naturally endowed with the power of eloquence; but to none is it at all times an easy process to embody in exact and appropriate language the various trains of ideas that are passing through the mind, or to depict in their true colours and proportions the diversified and nicer shades of feeling which accompany them. To those who are unpractised in the art of composition, or unused to extempore speaking, these difficulties present themselves in their most formidable aspect. However distinct may be our views, however vivid our conceptions, or however fervent our emotions, we cannot but be often conscious that the phraseology we have at our command is inadequate to do them justice. We seek in vain the words we need, and strive ineffectually to devise forms of expression which shall faithfully portray our thoughts and sentiments. The appropriate terms, notwithstanding our utmost efforts, cannot be conjured up at will. Like ¡®spirits from the vasty deep,¡¯ they come not when we call; and we are driven to the employ¡©ment of a set of words and phrases either too general or too limited, too strong or too feeble, which suit not the occasion, which hit not the mark we aim at; and the result of our prolonged exertion is a style at once laboured and obscure, vapid and redundant, or vitiated by the still graver faults of affectation or ambiguity.

It is to those who are thus painfully groping their way and struggling with the difficulties of composition, that this work professes to hold out a helping hand. The assistance it gives is that of furnishing on every topic a copious of store of words and phrases, adapted to express all the recognizable shades and modifications of the general idea under which those words and phrases are arranged. The inquirer can readily select, out of the ample collection spread out before his eyes in the following pages, those expressions which are best suited to his purpose, and which might not have occurred to him without such assistance. In order to make this selection, he scarcely ever need engage in any elaborate or critical study of the subtle distinctions existing between synonymous terms; for if the materials set before him be sufficiently abundant, an instinctive tact will rarely fail to lead him to the proper choice. Even while glancing over the columns of this work, his eye may chance to light upon a particular term, which may save the cost of a clumsy paraphrase, or spare the labour of a tortuous circum¡©locution. Some felicitous turn of expression thus introduced will fre¡©quently open to the mind of the reader a whole vista of collateral ideas, which could not, without an extended and obtrusive episode, have been unfolded to his view; and often will the judicious insertion of a happy epithet, like a beam of sunshine in a landscape, illumine and adorn the subject which touches it, imparting new grace, and giving life and spirit to the picture.

Every workman in the exercise of his art should be provided with proper implements. For the fabrication of complicated and curious pieces of mechanism the artisan requires a corresponding assortment of various tools and instruments. For giving proper effect to the fictions of the drama, the actor should have at his disposal a well-furnished wardrobe, supplying the costumes best suited to the personage he is to represent. For the perfect delineation of the beauties of nature, the painter should have within reach of his pencil every variety and combination of hues and tints. Now the writer, as well as the orator, employs for the accomplishment, of his purposes the instrumentality of words; it is in words that he clothes his thoughts; it is by means of words that he depicts his feelings. It is therefore essential to his success that he be provided with a copious vocabulary, and that he possess an entire command of all the resources and appliances of his language. To the acquisition of this power no procedure appears more directly conducive than the study of a methodized system such as that now offered to his use.

The utility of the present work will be appreciated more especially by those who are engaged in the arduous process of translating into English a work written in another language. Simple as the operation may appear, on a superficial view, of rendering into English each of its sentences, the task of transfusing, with perfect exactness, the sense of the original, preserving at the same time the style and character of its composition, and reflecting with fidelity the mind and the spirit of the author, is a task of extreme difficulty. The cultivation of this useful department of literature was in ancient times strongly recommended both by Cicero and by Quintilian as essential to the formation of a good writer and accomplished orator. Regarded simply as a mental exercise, the practice of translation is the best training for the attainment of that mastery of language and felicity of diction which are the sources of ¡®the highest oratory and are requisite for the possession of a graceful and persuasive eloquence. By rendering ourselves the faithful inter¡©preters of the thoughts and feelings of others, we are rewarded with the acquisition of greater readiness and facility in correctly expressing our own; as he who has best learned to execute the orders of a commander becomes himself best qualified to command.

In the earliest periods of civilization, translations have been the agents for propagating knowledge from nation to nation, and the value of their labours has been inestimable; but, in the present age, when so many different languages have become the depositories of the vast treasures of literature and of science which have been accumulating for centuries, the utility of accurate translations has greatly increased, an it has become a more important, object to attain perfection in the art.

The use of language is not confined to its being the medium through which we communicate our ideas to one another; it fulfils a no less important function as instrument of thought, not being merely its vehicle, but giving it wings for flight. Metaphysicians are agreed that scarcely any of our intellectual operations could be carried on to any considerable extent without the agency of words. None but those who are conversant with the philosophy of mental phenomena can be aware of the immense influence that is exercised by language, .in promoting the development of our ideas, in fixing them in the mind, and detaining them for steady contemplation. In every process of reasoning, lan¡©guage enters as an essential element. Words are the instruments by which we form all our abstractions, by which we fashion and embody our ideas, and by which we are enabled to glide along a series of premises and conclusions with a rapidity so great as to leave in the memory no trace of the successive steps of the process; and we remain unconscious how much we owe to this potent auxiliary of the reasoning faculty. It is on this ground, also, that the present work founds a utility. The review of a catalogue of words of analogous signification will often suggest by association other trains of thought, which, present¡©ing the subject under new and varied aspects, will vastly expand the sphere of our mental vision, amidst the many objects thus brought within the range of our contemplation, some striking similitude or appropriate image, some excursive flight or brilliant conception, may flash on the mind, giving point and force to our arguments, awakening a responsive chord in the imagination or sensibility of the reader, and procuring for our seasonings a more ready access both to his under¡©standing and to his hearty

It is of the utmost consequence that strict accuracy should regulate our use of language, and that every one should acquire the power and the habit of expressing his thoughts with perspicuity and correctness. Few, indeed, can appreciate the real extent and importance of that influence which language has always exercised on human affairs, or can be aware how often these are determined by causes much slighter than are apparent to a superficial observer. False logic, disguised under specious phraseology, too often gains the assent of the unthinking multitude, disseminating far and wide the seeds of prejudice and error. Truisms pass current, and wear the semblance of profound wisdom, when dressed up in the tinsel garb of antithetical phrases, or set on by an imposing pomp of paradox. By a confused jargon of involved and mystical sentences, the imagination is easily inveigled into a tran¡©scendental region of clouds, and the understanding beguiled into the belief that it is acquiring knowledge and approaching truth. A mis¡©applied or misapprehended term is sufficient to give rise to fierce and interminable disputes: a misnomer has turned the tide of popular opinion; a verbal sophism has decided a party question; an artful watchword, thrown among combustible materials, has kindled the flames of deadly warfare, and changed the destiny of an empire.

In constructing the following system of classification of the ideas which are expressible by language, my chief aim has been to obtain, the greatest amount of practical utility. I have accordingly adopted such principles of arrangement as appeared to me to be the simplest and most natural, and which would not require, either for their compre¡©hension or application, any disciplined acumen, or depth of metaphysical or antiquarian lore. Eschewing all needless refinements and subtleties, I have taken as my guide the more obvious characters of the ideas for which expressions were to be tabulated, arranging them under such classes and categories as reflection and experience had taught me would conduct the inquirer most readily and quickly to the object of his search. Commencing with the ideas expressing mere abstract relations, I proceed to those which relate to the phenomena of the material world, and lastly to those in which the mind is concerned, and which compre¡©hend intellect, volition, and feeling; thus establishing six primary Classes of Categories.

1. The first of these classes comprehends ideas derived from the more general and Abstract Relations among things, such as Existence, Resemblance, Quantity, Order, Number, Time, Power.

2. The second class refers to space and its various relations, including Motion, or change of place.

3. The third class includes all ideas that relate to the Material World; namely, the Properties of Matter, such as Solidity, Fluidity, Heat, Sound, Light, and the Phenomena they present, as well as the simple Perceptions to which they give rise.

4. The fourth class embraces all ideas of phenomena relating to the Intellect and its operations, comprising the Acquisition, the Retention, and the Communication of Ideas.

5. The fifth class includes the ideas derived from the exercise of volition, embracing the phenomena and results of our Voluntary and Active Powers, such as Choice, Intention. Utility, Action, Antagonism, Authority, Compact, Property, etc.

6. The sixth and last class comprehends all ideas derived from the operation of our Sentient and Moral Powers, including our Feelings, Emotions, Passions and Moral and Religious Sentiments. [2]

The object I have proposed to myself in this work would have been but imperfectly attained if I had confined myself to a mere catalogue of words, and had omitted the numerous phrases and forms of expres¡©sion, composed of several words, which are of such frequent use as to entitle them to rank among the constituent parts of the language. [3] Very few of these verbal combinations, so essential to the knowledge of our native tongue, and so profusely abounding in its daily use, are to be met with in ordinary dictionaries. These phrases and forms of expression I have endeavoured diligently to collect and to insert in their proper places, under the general ideas they are designed to convey. Some of these conventional forms, indeed, partake of the nature of proverbial expressions, but actual proverbs, as such, being wholly of didactic character, do not come within the scope of the present work, and the reader must therefore not expect to find them here inserted.

For the purpose of exhibiting with greater distinctness the relations between words expressing opposite and correlative ideas, I have, when¡©ever the subject admitted of such an arrangement, placed them in two parallel columns in the same page, so that each group of expressions may be readily contrasted with those which occupy the adjacent column, and constitute their antitheses. By carrying the eye from the one to the other, the inquirer may often discover forms of expression of which he may avail himself advantageously to diversify and infuse vigour into his phraseology. Rhetoricians, indeed, are well aware of the power derived from the skilful introduction of antitheses in giving point to an argument, and imparting force and brilliancy to the diction. A too frequent and indiscreet employment of this figure of rhetoric may, it is true, give rise to a vicious and affected style; but it is unreasonable to condemn indiscriminately the occasional .and moderate use of a practice on account of its possible abuse.

The study of correlative terms existing in a particular language may often throw valuable light on the manners and customs of the nations using it. Thus Hume has drawn important inferences with regard to the state of society among the ancient Romans, from certain deficiencies which he remarked in the Latin language. [4]

In many cases, two ideas, which are completely opposed to each other, admit of an intermediate or neutral idea, equidistant from both: all these being expressible by corresponding definite terms. Thus, in the following examples, the words in the first and third columns, which express opposite ideas, admit of the intermediate terms contained in the middle column having a neutral sense with reference to the former:

Identity Different Contrariety
Beginning Middle End
Past Present Future

In other cases, the intermediate word is simply the negative to each of two opposite positions; as, for example:

Convexity Flatness Concavity
Desire Indifference Aversion

Sometimes the intermediate word is properly the standard with which each of the extremes is compared; as in the case of

Insufficiency Sufficiency Redundance

For here the middle term, Sufficiency, is equally opposed on the one hand to Insufficiency and on the other to Redundance. These forms of correlative expressions would suggest the use of triple instead of double, columns for tabulating this threefold order of words; but the practical inconvenience attending such an arrangement would probably overbalance its advantages.

It often happens that the same word has several correlative terms, according to the different relations in which it is considered. Thus to the word Giving are opposed both Receiving and Taking, the former correlation having reference to the persons concerned in the transfer, while the latter relates to the mode of transfer. Old has for opposite both New and Young, according as it is applied to things or to living beings. Attack and Defence are correlative terms, as are also Attack and Resistance. Resistance, again, has for its other correlative Sub¡©mission. Truth in the abstract is opposed to Error, but the opposite of Truth communicated is Falsehood. Acquisition is contrasted both with Deprivation and with Loss. Refusal is the counterpart both of Offer and of Consent, Disuse and Misuse may either of them be considered as the correlative of Use. Teaching, with reference to what is taught, is opposed to Misteaching, but with reference to the act itself, its proper reciprocal is Learning.

Words contrasted in form do not always bear the same contrast in their meaning. The word Malefactor, for example, would, from its derivation, appear to be exactly the opposite of Benefactor, but the ideas attached to these two words are far from being directly opposed; for while the latter expresses one who confers a benefit, the former denotes one who has violated the laws.

Independently of the immediate practical uses derivable from the arrangement of words in double columns, many considerations, interest¡©ing in a philosophical point of view, are presented by the study of correlative expressions. It would be found, on strict, examination, that there seldom exists an exact opposition between two words which may at first sight appear to be the counterparts of one another; for, in general, the one will be found to posses in reality more force or extent of meaning than the other with which it is contrasted. The correlative term sometimes assumes the form of a mere negative, although it is really endowed with a considerable positive force. Thus Disrespect is not merely the absence of Respect; its signification trenches on the opposite idea, namely, Contempt. In like manner, Untruth is not merely the negative of Truth; it involves a degree of Falsehood, Irreligion, which is properly the want of Religion, is understood as being nearly synonymous with Impiety. For these reasons, the reader must not expect that all the words which stand side by side in the two columns should the precise correlatives of each other; for the nature of the subject, as well as the imperfections of language, renders it impossible always to preserve such an exactness of correlation.

There exist comparatively few words of a general character to which no correlative term, either of negation or of opposition, can be assigned, and which therefore require no corresponding second column. The correlative idea, especially that which constitutes a sense negative to the primary one, may, indeed, be formed or conceived; but, from its occurring rarely, no word has been framed to represent it; for in lan¡©guage, as in other matters, the supply fails when there is no probability of a demand. Occasionally we find this deficiency provided for by the contrivance of prefixing the syllable non; as, for instance, the negatives of existence, performance, payment, etc., are expressed by the compound words, non-existence, non-performance, non-payment, etc. Functions of a similar kind are performed by the prefixes dis-, [5] anti-, contra-, mis-, in-, and un. [6] With respect to all these, and especially the last, great latitude is allowed according to the necessities of the case, a latitude .which is limited only by the taste and discretion of the author.

On the other hand, it is hardly possible to find two words having in all respects the same meaning and being therefore interchangeable; that is, admitted of being employed indiscriminately, the one or the other, in all their applications. The, investigation of the distinctions to be drawn between words apparently synonymous forms a separate branch of inquiry which I. have not presume here to enter upon; for the subject has already occupied the attention of much abler critics than myself, and its complete exhaustion would require the devotion of a whole life. The purpose of this work, it must be borne in mind, is not to explain the signification of words, but simply to classify and arrange them according to the sense in which they are now used, and which I presume to be already known to the reader. I enter into no inquiry into the changes of meaning they may have undergone in the course of time. [7] I am content to accept them at the value of their present currency and have no concern with their etymologies, or with the history of their transformations; far less do I venture to thrid the mazes of the vast labyrinth into which I should be led by any attempt at a general discrimination of synonyms. The difficulties I have had to contend with have already been sufficiently great without this addition to my labours.

The most cursory glance over the pages of a dictionary will show that a great number of words are used in various senses, sometimes distinguished by slight shades of difference, but often diverging widely from their primary signification, and even, in some cases, bearing to it no perceptible relation. It may even happen that the very same word has two significations quite opposite to one another. This is the case with the verb to cleave, which means to adhere tenaciously, and also to separate by a blow. To propugn sometimes expresses to attack; at other times, to defend. To ravel means both to entangle and to dis¡©entangle. The alphabetical index at the end of this work sufficiently shows the multiplicity of uses to which, by the elasticity of language, the meaning of words has been stretched so as to adapt them to a great variety of modified significations in subservience to the nicer shades of thought which, under peculiarity of circumstances, require corresponding expression. Words thus admitting of different meanings have therefore to be arranged under each of the respective heads corresponding to these various acceptations. There are many words, again, which express ideas compounded of two elementary ideas belonging to different classes. It is therefore necessary to place these words respectively finder each of the generic heads to which they relate. The necessity of these repetitions is increased by the circumstance that ideas included under one class are often connected by relations of the same kind as the ideas which belong to another class. Thus we find the same relations of order and of quantity existing among the ideas of Time as well as those of Space. Sequence in the one is denoted by the same terms as sequence in the other, and the measures of time also express the measures of space. The cause and the effect are often designated by the same word. The word Sound, for instance, denotes both the im¡©pression made upon the ear by sonorous vibrations, and also the vibrations themselves, which are the cause or source of that impression. Mixture is used for the act of mixing, as well as for the product of that operation. Taste and Smell express both the sensations and the qualities of material bodies giving rise to them. Thought is the act of thinking, but the same word denotes also the idea resulting from that act. Judgment is the act of deciding, and also the decision come to. Purchase is the acquisition of a thing by payment, as well as the thing itself so acquired. Speech is both the act of speaking and the words spoken; and so on with regard to an endless multiplicity of words. Mind is essentially distinct from Matter, and yet, in all languages, the attributes of the one are metaphorically transferred to those of the other. Matter, in all its forms, is endowed by the figurative genius of every language with the functions which pertain to intellect; and we perpetually talk of its phenomena and of its powers as if they resulted from the voluntary influence of one body on another, acting and reacting, impelling and being impelled, controlling and being controlled, as if animated by spontaneous energies and guided by specific intentions. On the other hand, expressions of which the primary signification refers exclusively to the properties and actions of matter are metaphorically applied to the phenomena of thought and volition, and even to the feelings and passions of the Soul; and in speaking of a ray of hope, a shade of doubt, a flight of fancy, a flash of wit, the warmth of emotion, or the ebullitions of anger, we are scarcely conscious that we are employing metaphors which have this material origin.

As a general rule, I have deemed it incumbent on me to place words and phrases which, appertain more especially to one head also under the other heads to which they have a relation, whenever it appeared to me that this repetition would suit the convenience of the inquirer, and spare him the trouble of turning to other parts of the work; for I have always preferred to subject myself to the imputation of redundance, rather than incur the reproach of insufficiency. [8] When, however, the divergence of the associated from the primary idea is sufficiently marked, I have contented myself with making a reference to the place where the modified signification will be found. But in order to prevent needless extension, I have, in general, omitted conjugated words [9] which are so obviously derivable from those that are given in the same place, that the reader may safely be left to form them for himself This is the case with adverbs derived from adjectives by the simple addition of the terminal syllable -ly, such as closely, carefully, safely, etc., from close, careful, safe, etc., and also with adjectives or participles immediately derived from the verbs which are already given. In all such cases, an ¡®etc.¡¯ indicates that reference is understood to be made to these roots. I have observed the same rule in compiling the index, retaining only the primary or more simple word, and omitting the conju¡©gate words obviously derived from them. Thus I assume the word short as the representative of its immediate derivatives shortness, shorten, shortening, shortened, shorter, shortly, which would have had the same references, and which the reader can readily supply.

The same verb is frequently used indiscriminately either in the active or transitive, or in the neuter or intransitive sense. In these cases I have generally not thought it worth while to increase the bulk of the work by the needless repetition of that word, for the reader, whom I suppose to understand the use of the words, must also be presumed  to be competent to apply them correctly.

There are a multitude of words of a specific, which although they properly occupy places in the columns of a dictionary, yet, having no relation to general ideas, do not come within the scope of this compilation, and are consequently omitted. The names of objects in Natural History, and technical terms belonging exclusively to Science or to Art, or relating to particular operations, and of which the significa¡©tion is restricted to those specific objects, come under this category. Exceptions must, however, be made in favour of such words as admit of metaphorical application to general subjects with which custom has associated them, and of which they may be cited as being typical or illustrative. Thus the word Lion will find a place under the head of Courage, of which it is regarded as the type. Anchor, being emblematic of Hope, is introduced among the words expressing that emotion; and, in like manner, butterfly and weathercock, which are suggestive of fickleness, are included in the category of Irresolution.

With regard to the admission of many words and expressions, which the classical reader might be disposed to condemn as vulgarisms, or which he, perhaps, might stigmatize as pertaining rather to the slang than to the legitimate language of the day, I would beg to observe that, having due regard to the uses to which this work was to be adapted, I did not feel myself justified in excluding them solely on that ground, if they possessed an acknowledged currency in general inter¡©course. It is obvious that, with respect to degrees of conventionality, I could not have attempted to draw any strict lines of demarcation, and tailless could I have presumed to erect any absolute standard of purity. My object, be it remembered, is not to regulate the use of words, but simply to supply and to suggest such as may be wanted on occasion, leaving the proper selection entirely  to the discretion and taste of the employer. If a novelist or a dramatist, for example, pro¡©posed to delineate some vulgar personage, he would wish to have the power of putting into the mouth of the speaker expressions that would accord with his character, just as the actor, to revert to a former com¡©parison, who had to personate a peasant, would choose for his attire the most homely garb, and would have just reason to complain if the theatrical wardrobe furnished him with no suitable costume.

Words which have, in process of time, become obsolete, are, of course, rejected from this collection. On the other hand, I have admitted a considerable number of words and phrases borrowed from other languages, chiefly the French and Latin, some of which may be considered., as already naturalized; while others, though avowedly foreign, are frequently introduced in English composition, particularly in familiar style, on account of their being peculiarly expressive, and because we have no corresponding words of equal force in our own language. [10] The rapid advances which are being made in scientific knowledge, and consequent improvement in all the arts of life, and the extension of those arts and sciences to so many new purposes and objects, create a continual demand for the formation of new terms to express new agencies, new wants, and new combinations. Such terms, from being at first merely technical, are rendered, by more general use, familiar to the multitude and having a well-defined acceptation, and eventually incorporated into the language, which they contribute to enlarge and to enrich. Neologies of this kind are perfectly legitimate, and highly advantageous; and they necessarily introduce those gradual and pro¡©gressive changes which every language  is destined to undergo. [11] Some modem writers, however, have indulged in a habit of arbitrarily fabricating new words and a new-f angled phraseology without any necessity, and with manifest injury to the purity of the language. This vicious practice, the offspring of indolence or conceit, implies an ignorance or neglect of the riches in which the English language already abounds, and which would have supplied them with words of recognized legitimacy, conveying precisely the same meaning as those they so recklessly coin in the illegal mint of their own fancy.

A work constructed on the plan of classification I have proposed might, if ably executed, be of great value in tending to limit the fluctuations to which language has always been subject, by establishing an authoritative standard for its regulation. Future historians, philo¡©logists, and lexicographers, when investigating the period when new words were introduced, or discussing the import given at the present time to the old, might find their labours lightened by being enabled to appeal to such a standard, instead of having to search for data among the scattered writings of the age. Nor would its utility be confined to a single language, for the principles of its construction art universally applicable to all languages, whether living or dead. On the same plan of classification there might be formed a French, a German, a Latin or a Greek Thesaurus possessing, in their respective spheres, the same advantages as those of the English model. Still more useful would be a conjunction of these methodized compilations in two languages, the French and the English, for instance; the columns of each being placed in parallel juxtaposition. No means yet devised would so greatly facilitate the acquisition of the one language by those who are acquainted with the other: none would afford such ample assistance to the trans¡©lator in either language; and none would supply such ready and effectual means of instituting an accurate comparison between them, and of fairly appreciating their respective merits and defects. In a still higher degree would all those advantages be combined and multiplied in a Polyglot Lexicon constructed on this system.

Metaphysicians engaged in the more profound investigation of the Philosophy of Language will be materially assisted by having the ground thus prepared for them in a previous analysis and classification of our ideas, for such classification of ideas is the true basis on which words, which are their symbols, should be classified. [12] It is by such analysis alone that we can arrive at a clear perception of the relation which these symbols bear to their corresponding ideas, or can obtain a correct knowledge of the elements which enter into the formation of compound ideas, and of the exclusions by which we arrive at the abstractions so perpetually resorted to in the process of reasoning and in the communication of our thoughts.

Lastly, such analyses alone can determine the principles on which a strictly Philosophical Language might be constructed. The probable result of the construction or such a language would be its eventual adoption by every civilized nation, thus realizing that splendid aspira¡©tion of philanthropists - the establishment of a Universal Language.

However Utopian such a project may appear to the present generation, and however abortive may have been the former endeavours of Bishop Wilkins and others to realize it, [13] its accomplishment is surely not beset with greater difficulties than have impeded the progress to many other beneficial objects which in former times appeared to be no less visionary, and which yet were successfully achieved, in later ages, by the con¡©tinued and persevering exertions of the human intellect. Is there at the present day, then, any ground for despair that, at some future stage of that higher civilization to which we trust the world is gradually tending, some new and bolder effort of genius towards the solution of this great problem may be crowned with success, and compass an object of such vast and paramount utility? Nothing, indeed, would conduce more directly to bring about a golden age of union and harmony among the several nations and races of mankind than the removal of that barrier to the interchange, of thought and mutual good understanding between man and man which is now interposed by the by the diversity of their respective languages.


[1] See note on p. 571, 559

[2] It must necessarily happen in every system of classification framed with this view, that ideas and expressions arranged under one class must include also ideas relating to another class; for the operations of the Intellect generally involve also those of the Will, and vice versa; and our Affections and Emotions, in like manner, generally imply the agency both of the Intellect and the Will. All that can be effected, therefore, is to arrange the words according to the principal or dominant idea they convey. Teaching, for example, although a Voluntary act, relates primarily to the Communication of Ideas, and is accordingly placed at No. 537, under Class IV, Division II. On the other hand, Choice, Conduct, Skill, etc., although implying the co-operation of Voluntary with Intellectual acts, relate principally to the former, and are therefore arranged under Class V.

It often happens that the same word admits of various applications, or may be used in different senses. In consulting the Index the reader will be guided to the number of the heading under which that word, in each particular accepta¡©tion, will be found, by means of supplementary words, printed in italics; which words, however, are not to be understood as explaining the meaning of the word to which they are annexed, but only assisting in the required reference. I have also, for shortness¡¯ sake, generally omitted words immediately derived from the primary one inserted, which sufficiently represents the whole group of correlative words referable to the same heading. Thus the number affixed to Beauty applies to all its derivatives, such as Beautiful, Beauteous, Beautify, Beautifulness, Beautifully, etc., the insertion of which was therefore needless.

[3] For example: To take time by the forelock; to turn over a new leaf; to show the white feather; to have a finger in the pie; to let the cat out of the bag; to take care of number one; to kill two birds with one stone, etc.

[4] ¡®It is an universal observation,¡¯ he remarks, ¡®which we may form upon language, that where two related parts of a whole bear any proportion to each other, in numbers, rank, or consideration, there are always correlative terms invented which answer to both the parts and express their mutual relation. If they bear no proportion to each other, the term is only invented for the less, and marks its distinction from the whole. Thus man and woman, master and servant, father and son, prince and subject, stranger and citizen, are correlative terms. But the words seaman, carpenter, smith, tailor, etc., have no correspondent terms which express those who are no seamen, no carpenters, etc. Languages differ very much with regard to the particular words where this distinction obtains; and may thence afford very strong inferences concerning the manners and customs of different nations. The military government of the Roman emperors had exalted the soldiery so high, that they balanced all the other orders of the state: hence miles and paganus became relative terms; a thing, till then, unknown to ancient, and still so to modem, languages.¡¯ ¡®The term for a slave, born and bred in the family, was verna. As servus was the name of the genus, and verna of the species without any correlative, this forms a strong presumption that the latter were by far the least numerous: and from the same principles I infer that if the number of slaves brought by the Romans from foreign countries had not extremely exceeded those which were bred at home, verna would have had a correla¡©tive, which would have expressed the former species of slaves. But these, it would seem, composed the main body of the ancient slaves, and the latter were but a few exceptions.¡¯ – Hume, Essay on the Populousness of Ancient Nations.

The warlike propensity of the same nation may in a like manner be inferred from the use of the word hostis to denote both a, foreigner and an enemy.

[5] The word disannul, however, had the same meaning as annul.

[6] In the case of adjectives, the addition to a substantive of the terminal syllable less, gives it a negative meaning: as taste, tasteless; care, careless; hope, hopeless; friend, friendless; fault, faultless, etc.

 [7] Such changes are innumerable; for Instance, the words tyrant, parasite, sophist, churl, knave, villain, anciently conveyed no opprobrious meaning. Impertinent merely expressed irrelative, and implied neither rudeness nor intrusion, as it does at present. Indifferent originally meant impartial; extravagant was simply digressive; and to prevent was properly to precede and assist. The old translations of the Scriptures furnish many striking examples of the alterations which time has brought in the signification of words. Much curious information on this subject is contained in Trench¡¯s Lectures on the Study of Words. [8] Frequent repetitions of the same series of expressions, accordingly, will be met with under various headings. For example, the word Relinquishment, with its synonyms, occurs as a heading at No. 624, where it applies to intention, and also at No. 782, where it refers to property. The word Chance has two significations, distinct from one another: the one implying the absence of an assignable cause, in which case it comes under the category of the relation of Causation, and occupies the No. 156; the other, the absence of design, in which latter sense it ranks under the operations of the Will, and has assigned to it the place No. 621. I have, in like manner, distinguished Sensibility, Pleasure, Pain, Taste, etc., according as they relate to Physical or to Moral Affections¡¯, the former being found at Nos. 375, 377, 378, 390, etc., and the latter at Nos. 822, 827, 828, 850, etc.

[9] By ¡®conjugate or paronymous word is meant, correctly speaking, different parts of speech from the same root, which exactly correspond in point of meaning.¡¯- A Selection of English Synonyms, edited by Archbihop Whately.


[10] All these words and phrases are printed in italics.

 [11] Thus in framing the present classification I have frequently felt the want of substantive terms corresponding to abstract qualities or ideas denoted by certain adjectives, and have been tempted to invent words that might express these abstractions; but I have yielded to this temptation only in the four following instances: having framed from the adjectives irrelative, amorphous, sinistral, and gaseous the abstract nouns irrelation, ammphism, sinistrality, and gaseity. I have ventured also to introduce the adjective intersocial to express the active voluntary relations between man and man.

 [12] The principle by which I have been guided in framing my verbal classifica¡©tion is the same as that which is employed in the various departments of natural history. Thus the sectional divisions I have formed correspond to natural families in botany and zoology, and the filiation of words presents a network analogous to the natural filiation of plants or animals.

The following are the only publications that have come to my knowledge in which any attempt has been made to construct a systematic arrangement of Ideas with a view to their expression. The earliest of these, supposed to be at least nine hundred years old, is the Amera CÙsha or Vocabulary of the Sanscrit Language, by Amera Sinha, of which an English translation, by the late Henry T. Colebrooke, was printed at Serampoor in the year 1808. The classification of words is there, as might be expected, exceedingly imperfect and confused, especially in all that relates to abstract Ideas or mental operations. This will be apparent from the very title of the first section, which comprehends ¡®Heaven, Gods, Demons, Fire, Air. Velocity, Eternity, Much¡¯¡¯, while Sin, Virtue, Happiness, Destiny, Cause, Nature, Intellect, Reasoning, Knowledge, Senses, Tastes, Odours, Colours, are all included and jumbled together in the fourth section. A more logical order, however, pervades the sections relating to natural objects, such as Seas, Earth, Towns, Plants, and Animals, which form separate classes, exhibiting a remarkable effort at analysis at so remote a period of Indian literature.

The well-known work of Bishop Wilkins, entitled An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language, published in 1668, had for its object the formation of a system of symbols which might serve as a universal lan¡©guage. It professed to be founded on a ¡®scheme of analysis of the things or notions to which names were to be assigned¡¯; but notwithstanding the immense labour and ingenuity expended in the construction of this system, it was soon found to be far too abstruse and recondite for practical application.

In the year 1797 there appeared in Paris an anonymous work, entitled Pasigraphie, ou Premiers Elements du nouvel Art-Science d¡¯ecrire et d¡¯imprimer une langue de maniÀre in Ure lu et entendu dans toute autre la langue sans traduction, of which an edition in German was also published. It contains a great number of tabular schemes of categories, all of which appear to be excessively arbitrary and artificial, and extremely difficult of application, as well as of apprehension.

[13] ¡®The languages,¡¯ observes Horne Tooke, ¡®which are commonly used throughout the world, are much more simple and easy, convenient and philosophical, than Wilkins¡¯s scheme for a real character; or than any other scheme that has been at any other time imagined or proposed for the purpose.¡¯ - p. 125.


Copyright 2002 by
This page was last modified 2002/05/10