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The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (Book)

Found in: language arts & literature, social studies, 3-5, 6-8

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (2014), by Jen Brant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, presents the life of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869).  Roget was a physician, scientist, lexicographer, and The Right Word relates to the compiling of his “treasure house” of words or thesaurus. Roget started his book, his lists of words, when he was eight. The first edition of the thesaurus was published when he was twenty-six. The Right Word includes authors and illustrators notes, a bibliography, and a timeline which acknowledges some of Roget’s other accomplishments. Roget developed the “log-log scale” for the slide rule, invented the first pocket chessboard, and wrote a scientific paper on optical illusions that is considered one of the founding principles of cinema. Melissa Sweet’s multimedia illustrations are especially engaging and effective. Pages are filled with objects and lists of words in different typefaces and hands. The Right Word stresses Roget’s determination to list words so that everyone could find the right word in a book that is often misused and has developed a reputation for producing bad writing. This book can be found FREE at your local library or for sale at  We've compiled these resources to accompany a study of The Right Word:  


Middle and high school teachers and students will find The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (2008) by Joshua Kendall gives a more comprehensive account of Roget’s life and accomplishments.


Thesaurus Abuse:

As every teacher knows, a thesaurus can be misused. How Thesaurus Misuse Can Lead To 'Sinister Buttocks' gives a few examples of more ludicrous errors. More subtle examples that result from a failure to appreciate connotation are taken up in a lesson below.



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