Facts and Figures

The Historical Thesaurus contains 804,830 entries arranged into 235,249 semantic categories. (By comparison, the second printed edition of the OED, one of our primary sources, defines 615,100 senses, and our own first edition had 793,733 entries.) This means that in the Thesaurus an average of 3.5 word forms has been used to describe each concept across the history of English.

The largest categories in the database are:

The most commonly occurring word forms across the history of English are:

set (345 occurrences), run (302), strike (256), fall (206), cast (187), round (179), turn (174), point (169), slip (165), pass (160), shoot (159), take (158), show (157), stand (157), stock (153), up (151), stop (146), work (145), cut (145), light (142), pitch (141), roll (141)

Overall, our electronic database contains over 1 million rows and in excess of 25 million separate pieces of data.

The Thesaurus project itself formally began on 15 January 1965 at an address to the Philological Society in London, where Professor Michael Samuels announced that the work would be undertaken by himself and his colleagues at Glasgow, and the production of the first edition of the Thesaurus ended at the launch party on 22 October 2009; this first stage of the project therefore consumed 44 years, 9 months and 1 week exactly (or 16,351 days), and the total cost of the first edition of the Thesaurus was £1.1million in grants (when adjusted for inflation approximately £2.2m/$3.4m in 2009 equivalent), in addition to a good deal of uncosted academic time; a bargain at a little over 1p per word and around 340 words a week! Our second edition was launched in October 2020, and work on it proceeds at Glasgow.

Overall, the Thesaurus is the work of over 230 people, with more continuing to work on it. Thus far, it has taken approximately 330,000 person-hours of scholarly work – the equivalent of 178 years of solid work for one person.