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What is an Electronic Thesaurus?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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An electronic thesaurus is an electronic reference device that contains the functions of a traditional paper thesaurus, or one found online. It is somewhat rare, however, to see a thesaurus as the sole function of this type of electronic device. Often, it will be combined with an electronic dictionary as well. In addition, it may also contain some rudimentary translating capabilities, and perhaps a basic calculator or calendar as well.

An electronic thesaurus is often designed like a big cell phone or calculator, with a small screen on top of the device, and a miniature keyboard on the bottom half. It may also be designed more like a small laptop, featuring a clamshell-type case with a screen that flips up on one side, and a miniature keyboard on the other. Some may feature speaking capability, but this is less common on an electronic thesaurus than on a speaking dictionary or pocket translator.

The function of a thesaurus is to provide a comprehensive list of synonyms and often antonyms for a chosen word. To use an electronic thesaurus, simply type in the word for which a synonym or antonym is desired, and the electronic device will provide the list. This is the most basic function of an electronic thesaurus.

Since these devices are usually not sold with solely thesaurus functions, a dictionary is the most common inclusion. When searching for a word, one can choose to see a dictionary entry, with definitions and a pronunciation guide in addition to a list of synonyms. If the device has speaking capabilities, it may be able to speak the word aloud. Some allow different helpful functions, such as searching for a word phonetically for those who are unsure how to spell a new word.

In addition to dictionary and thesaurus capabilities, this type of electronic device may be able to translate some words or phrases into other languages. Generally, these do not feature the extensive capabilities of a pocket translator, which may be able to correctly translate entire sentences, but an electronic thesaurus may be able to translate a single word into another language. Some common language inclusions are French and Spanish; it may also provide some key phrases that may be useful when traveling in another country.

Finally, other features of an electronic thesaurus may include word games and a calculator. In addition, for those designed for traveling, a currency converter, metric converter, or world clock may be added as well. This type of electronic device may be found online or in most office supply stores.

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