Throw out the term “thesaurus words,” and you’ll probably get some side-eye from writers who see the thesaurus as a crutch for amateur writers trying to make their writing sound more sophisticated.
But a thesaurus can help you find the right words for your project — the ones that say what you need to say, just the way you need to say it.
The words every writer should know, after all, are the words they need to tell a compelling story or to get their point across with clarity, simplicity, and elegance.
So, the best thesaurus for writers is the one that helps them find those words as efficiently as possible, so they can get back to the business of writing.
- Best Online Thesaurus for Writers
- The Best Thesaurus for Writers: 9 Excellent Print or Kindle Options
- 1. Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus
- 2. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
- 3. Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers
- 4. The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma
- 5. The Well-Spoken Thesaurus: The Most Powerful Ways to Say Everyday Words and Phrases (by Tom Heehler)
- 6. Thesaurus of the Senses (by Linda Hart)
- 7. The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes (Writers Helping Writers Series, Book 3)
- 8. The Thinker’s Thesaurus: Sophisticated Alternatives to Common Words (by Peter Meltzer)
- 9. The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws (Writers Helping Writers Series, Book 2)
Best Online Thesaurus for Writers
If you’re running short on space for printed books — or you’d just rather use online dictionaries and other resources — we’re here to help you find the best writer’s thesaurus online for your purposes.
Here’s a short list of the best options we’ve found:
- Thesaurus.com (by Dictionary.com) — the oldest and most trusted online thesaurus
- Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus — similar to Thesaurus.com but with the results formatted differently.
- The FreeDictionary Thesaurus — creates a diagram for each word entered, indicating synonyms and antonyms by green circles or red squares (respectively).
- Collins Dictionary Thesaurus — similar to the Merriam-Webster thesaurus in the way it displays results.
- PowerThesaurus.com — a crowdsourced English thesaurus that generates synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and examples for each word.
The Best Thesaurus for Writers: 9 Excellent Print or Kindle Options
What if you need a more evocative thesaurus for your writing project? By that, I mean a thesaurus that helps you find the words most likely to evoke the right images or feelings in your reader?
Also, it helps to have a printed book you can thumb through whenever you need it, without having to rely on your internet connection.
Online thesauruses are fine for the random, occasional search for synonyms or antonyms.
But when you need a go-to resource to help you find the right words (more than once a day) for your current work in progress, you need something close at hand.
The following tools provide thousands of well-organized words for writers. Don’t be surprised if more than one of them end up in your cart.
Offering real-life example sentences and a selection of the most relevant synonyms for each word, the Oxford Thesaurus should have pride of place on your writer’s library shelf — right alongside the Oxford Dictionary.
It even has a Word Finder section, organized by subject, as well as a comprehensive language guide and tools for selecting and using vocabulary.
You’ll also find helpful commentary (on certain words) by noted contemporary writers, including Zadie Smith and David Foster Wallace.
This is Book 1 of the Writers Helping Writers Series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Writers have hailed this bestselling thesaurus as “the gold standard for writers.”
Each entry offers body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses, so you can show rather than tell what your character is feeling.
If you’ve ever looked for just the right word to show what your character was feeling, so your reader could feel it, too, this book will be an indispensable part of your writing resource library.
The old standby thesaurus now comes in an edition specifically for writers. Organized by meaning, each entry in the book provides a pronunciation guide, definition, antonyms, synonyms, and a sample sentence.
You’ll find inspiration and expand your vocabulary the more you use this book. Updated for the 21st century, Roget’s Thesaurus may be the first one you open when you’re struggling to think of just the right word to use.
Book 6 of the Writers Helping Writer Series, this thesaurus specializes in words related to psychological trauma and emotional wounds. Readers to connect to characters who’ve experienced trauma or heartbreak.
Painful experiences lend depth and pathos to a character who might otherwise feel two-dimensional and unrelatable. But if you’ve ever had difficulty finding the words you need to give your damaged characters that depth, you need this thesaurus on your shelf.
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5. The Well-Spoken Thesaurus: The Most Powerful Ways to Say Everyday Words and Phrases (by Tom Heehler)
A self-described “ultimate guide to powerful language,” this unique thesaurus focuses on the words we use every day and addresses mispronounced and misused words.
The goal here is to learn how to expand your vocabulary and know how to use the right words (scholarly or simple, depending on the context) correctly and with the best results.
Because being well-spoken is less about knowing lofty words and more about knowing what words best suit the moment and using them correctly.
Speaking of evocative thesauruses, if you’re looking for the right words to appeal to your readers senses — so they see, hear, smell, taste, or feel what you’re describing — you need Linda Hart’s Thesaurus of the Senses.
The most compelling words are those that invoke the senses. And even the best writers can struggle sometimes to think of the right ones to use. Keep this thesaurus on your shelf to make those moments far less frequent.
7. The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes (Writers Helping Writers Series, Book 3)
Every important character in your story — especially the protagonist — needs both flaws and redeeming qualities. But how do you choose the right positive traits for a character with specific flaws. And how would those positive traits manifest?
Enter the Positive Traits Thesaurus, which gives you a large selection of positive attributes to choose from, each with possible causes for those traits to emerge, along with the attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that tend to go with it.
You’ll also see real character examples from literature, film, and television to illustrate each positive trait and show how it influences each character’s arc and actions.
If you love distinctive words and have a passion for precise, evocative language, this thesaurus is for you. Meltzer’s thesaurus puts each word in context with examples that show exactly how to use it and what it brings to the sentence.
His introduction argues the importance of broadening your vocabulary and learning how to use the “one right word.” Both are important not only for everyday speech but for writing content your readers will enjoy and learn from.
9. The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws (Writers Helping Writers Series, Book 2)
Book 2 of the Writers Helping Writers Series, this thesaurus is all about finding the right flaws for your characters, understanding how those flaws might have developed, and knowing how they might drive your characters and affect those around them.
Real examples from literature, film, and television show how each flaw can influence a character’s actions and decision-making — as well as what you can do to help your flawed character’s avoid common pitfalls.
Did you find the best thesaurus for your writing needs?
Now that you’ve looked over 9 of the most useful thesauruses for writers, which ones stood out to you the most? Which do you think you’d get the most use out of — either with your writing or with your own personal development?
I hope you found more than one to add to your writing resource library. And if you’re a fan of the Writers Helping Writers Series, check out their online tool, One Stop For Writers.
The right word at the right time is magic. I hope you use the resources listed in this post to bring more of that magic into your life and the lives of your readers.