I need to invent a new word familiar to English speakers, and think it would be beneficial to have a thesaurus based on the etymology of words (ideally with some ngram usage sorting).

Does such a thing exist?

If not, where can I derive the information needed to perform said research?

In addition to word building, such a tool would be helpful in the ever popular single word requests.

closed as off-topic by Fattie, P. O., Kevin Workman, AndyT, jimm101 Oct 5 '16 at 15:49

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  • Every single existing dictionary includes etymology; the OED is an etymological document. BTW you should ask this question on the useful ELL site for more info. – Fattie Oct 5 '16 at 12:38
  • Do you want a resource that is like a thesaurus, listing synonyms, by excluding those which don't share an etymology, or a resource that collects all words together which have, in some sense, a shared etymology, regardless of current meaning / synonymity? If the former, then I think your best bet is a normal thesaurus, where you yourself could discard words which don't share an etymology (which, for most word pairs, will be obvious at a glance, though you will have some false negatives). If the latter, it's going to depend critically on how far back you consider "shared" etymologies. – Dan Bron Oct 5 '16 at 12:40
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    @JoeBlow I think the question is better asked here than on ELL. If we were to migrate it anywhere, I'd suggest Meta.ELU, as it is technically a resource request. – Dan Bron Oct 5 '16 at 12:41
  • @DanBron perhaps a thesaurus that listed the raw etamilogy of each word, without having to research the origins individually. – Christopher Oct 5 '16 at 12:46
  • @LamonteCristo I'm sure you could find a thesaurus which listed the etymology of the headword, but I doubt you'll find one which lists, directly under the headword, the etymologies of each synonym. That would seem to be noisy and redundant (because, within the same reference, the etymology of each synonym would be listed under its own entry). Maybe you could give an example of what you're trying to do, and then describe how this ideal reference would assist that effort? That would make it easier for us to offer concrete suggestions. Meanwhile, have you seen etymonline? – Dan Bron Oct 5 '16 at 12:50

There is such a resource, but it's not restricted to English. Bibliographic reference:

From the Preface:

How do we get our ideas?
The kind of thinking that distinguishes man from brute has been built up by and is dependent upon the use of symbols. Since vocal utterance attained a higher development than gesture as a means of communication, these symbols are, in fact, the words.
... The history of ideas is embodied in the history of the words used to express them.

It's big -- 1555 pages in the original, though only a quarter of that in the paperback. It's organized into 22 chapters, by topic:

  • (1) The Physical World in Its Larger Aspects
  • (2) Mankind: Sex, Age, Family Relationship
  • (3) Animals
  • (4) Parts of the Body; Bodily Functions and Conditions
  • (5) Food and Drink; Cooking and Utensils


  • (12) Spatial Relations: Place, Form Size

  • (13) Quantity and Number
  • (14) Time
  • (15) Sense Perception


  • (20) Warfare
  • (21) Law
  • (22) Religion and Superstition

Each chapter lists from 50 to 100 ideas, and for each one provides all the words for it, in -- as the title says -- the principal Indo-European languages, viz:

Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, Rumanian, Old Irish, Modern Irish, Welsh, Breton, Gothic, Old Norse, Danish, Swedish, Old English, Middle English, Modern English, Dutch, Old High German, Middle High German, Modern German, Lithuanian, Latvian, Old Church Slavonic, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Russian, Sanskrit, and Avestan.

After the word list for each idea (Buck uses the word 'notion'), there is a page or more of detailed discussion going over the different words and where they came from -- typically 3 or 4 different PIE roots are involved for each idea, over the different histories of each language. Everything is covered.

There's nothing else like it, it's utterly fascinating -- if you like details -- and it's now available in a 4-to-1 reduced paperback, so it's portable. (I also notice that it's now available in an ebook, but I have no experience with the interface.)

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