Is there something like a thesaurus that offers terms more often used in the past?

For instance, I beg you would, in Shakespearean times, be prithee, while chicks during the 1920s would be dolls.

Meta: Seeing how the question on a thesaurus with archaic and obsolete words and several other thesaurus-related questions have been closed, I fear this one might be, too. However, I am hoping it’s more on-topic. Please, if this must be closed, at least tell me where I should go to receive a good answer.

  • Were the comments to that question unsatisfactory?
    – SEL
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 1:23
  • 1
    Try the OED. It has 2.5 million example sentences, from the earliest written sources, grouped under headword. You can make your own thesaurus. Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 2:10
  • 1
    Is this Q better asked on meta?
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 5:53

2 Answers 2


There is! It's the Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English, the world's only historical thesaurus. We published it through OUP in 2009 as the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, and is also freely available online at http://www.glasgow.ac.uk/thesaurus - we also provide a whole bunch of additional information and visualisations there, too.

We produced it at the University of Glasgow and it's the work of over 230 people, taking approximately 320,000 person-hours to complete – it began in 1965. I hope you find it useful!


To follow up on John Lawler's comment on the OED. They did make rather expensive historical thesaurus, which I myself own.

  • Guess you're not a "dasiberd"...
    – SEL
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 6:45
  • 1
    Nor a "doddypoll". / The Historical Thesaurus of the OED is also online (presumably subscribers only, but you may have access via your local library card).
    – Hugo
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 12:33
  • Awesome! Just wish I had free access to it in the States
    – Ky -
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 2:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.