Instead of saying

The library had a massive collection of books to choose from.

could I use repertoire to make it

The library had a massive repertoire to choose from.

Although the synonyms of the word seem to suggest it should work, the definitions always talk about it being related to performance. Could someone clear it up? Thank you.

(Also, if it doesn't work what would be a good equivalent?)

  • 3
    Since a collection of books is called a library, why not "There was a massive library to choose from"? Aug 9 at 12:07
  • @KillingTime Is that even grammatically correct? Isn't the 'choose from' unclear since no direct reference to 'books' was made? Anyhow, since I'm writing an essay I didn't really want to use any super short sentences like that to begin with...
    – Nirabhra
    Aug 9 at 12:15
  • I would avoid the word "massive" in this context. Questions of this sort are better on English Language Learners in my opinion. Otherwise, check the examples in an online dictionary or Google for the phrase to see if it is ever used. (I do this for the French version of a website I run.) If the phrase never or hardly ever comes up, it is unlikely to be common usage. Don't use this site to check your homework please.
    – David
    Aug 9 at 12:22
  • 2
    Don't answer in comments. Write an answer, even if that answer is "No, the word is not appropriate" — it would be good to back that assertion up with something, though.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 9 at 12:39

3 Answers 3

  • 'Repertoire' is used for performances, things that are repeated over and over by a performer (as opposed to a special performance of a single work). So it sounds strange to use with books (the author writes it once, and the reader, though possibly reading a work more than once, is themselves not producing the work).
  • If what is meant is the idea of 'collection', then

collection that is the appropriate choice here.

  • A library is often considered by itself to be simply a collection of just books. So it is strange for it to also -have- a collection. Larger libraries may include a subset that is called a collection and is not books. So one might say "The research library has a collection of foreign newspapers." (it has a number of other collections).
  • But of course everything can be stretched given the right context and a little poetic license. Maybe with some magical realism, the library personified 'reads' the books out loud as a performance?
  • As to synonyms, repertoire and collection are very close, but that doesn't mean they can be replaced one for the other. And that is the case for all synonym lists in thesauruses. There are no exact synonyms - there are no pairs of words where you can replace one with the other in all circumstances.

But in the end, I don't think you want to use 'repertoire' to describe a library.

  • Oh, so it's best to avoid using even 'collection'?
    – Nirabhra
    Aug 9 at 12:43
  • 'Collection' is what a library is so that is correct. but 'had' is what is the problem. And while the replaced version 'The library was a collection...' is right, it sounds tautological ... well this is getting into style choice and opinion about what sounds best, which I can't really tell.
    – Mitch
    Aug 9 at 12:47
  • 5
    Libraries do have collections: the Bodleian has collections of maps, manuscripts, etc. Aug 9 at 12:54
  • @WeatherVane Yes, I'm starting to realize that. The canonical idea of a library (the first thing you think of) is that the library -is- a collection. But if you know the context of say a large library with special parts, then 'had' is surely fine. (and really it is not that bad for a plain library, it just sounded a little off to me and that was the explanation I found).
    – Mitch
    Aug 9 at 12:57
  • Well yes, you had my vote. Aug 9 at 12:57

The word repertoire, with its other variant repertory, did once have the meaning of an inventory. Etymonline explains:

1550s, "an index, list, catalogue," from Late Latin repertorium "inventory, list," from Latin repertus, past participle of reperire "to find, get, invent," from re-, here perhaps an intensive prefix, + parire, archaic form of paerere "produce, bring forth" (from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, procure").

So there is a connotation of all the items of a collection, which was preserved in the specific meaning with which it is used today (performances).

For libraries, however, if you want to refer to the amount itself, better use collection

an accumulation of objects gathered for study, comparison, or exhibition or as a hobby (M-W)

In fact, library is listed as the synonym of collection.

Here are some official examples:

The British Library’s collection includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound. (source)

  • Cambridge Library Collection (source)

If you refer to the list that contains all the names of the book, catalogue (or catalog if you live in the US) is the best term.

a complete list of items, typically one in alphabetical or other systematic order. (OxfordL)

Otherwise, you could use a plural noun like resources

a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively. (OxfordL)

Library resources seems to be quite common, according to this Ngram.

  • Thank you for the clarification, though I don't intend to use 'catalogue' since I'm not exactly trying to refer to a list.
    – Nirabhra
    Aug 9 at 12:41
  • 2
    @Nirabhra a catalogue can refer to the actual material, not just a list. Aug 9 at 14:31
  • @WeatherVane I see, thank you.
    – Nirabhra
    Aug 9 at 15:13

Repertoire is borrowed from French. In that language it typically means

  • folder (eg manila folder)
  • directory (in a computer file system)
  • collection (in the sense of your question)
  • set (eg encyclopaedia volumes)
  • Memorised works (a musician's repertoire, the pieces he can play from memory)

Memorised works is the most common sense when the word is borrowed by English. Often this sense is applied outside the context of music to skills in general.

Though repertoire most often refers to skills or memorised works, you cannot rely on this. When mugging foreign languages to rifle their pockets the gloves are off and anything goes. In your writing, be sure that context will steer your readers to the sense you intend.

One reason for deliberately unusual use of borrowed words and phrases is to raise the tone of a work, by implying a high level of education on the part of both author and audience. In persuasive works this is useful; enthusiasm for the implied compliment makes readers sympathetic.

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