Love of lexicon

6th May 2005 at 01:00
Hugh John finds a compelling and direct way to teach the complexities in language

The Visual Thesaurus (pound;30, which began as a website aiming to "show the inter-relationships between words and meanings typically obscured by alphabetical representations and traditional lists" is now available in a new version on CD.

Based on WordNet, a lexical reference system developed at Princeton University, Visual Thesaurus represents words and meanings as a nexus of interconnected lines and dots. The principal, or "head word", which you type into the search box, is at the centre and revolving about it are the related meanings. Clicking on any other word will establish it as the new keyword.

The use of colour coding for parts of speech (nouns are red dots, adjectives are yellow, verbs are green etc.) and their relationships (solid black lines represent synonyms, dotted red lines represent antonyms) is a compelling and direct way of introducing children to complex associations within language. Three clicks, for instance, takes you from "affection" to "midfield", defined incidentally as "the middle part of a playing field".

Version 3 sees the database expanded to more than 145,000 words and 115,000 meanings and the interface retooled. There's a spell-checking facility, browser-style Back and Forward buttons and internet links that connect search words to online images.

However, the most notable improvement on previous versions is the addition of audio files that allow students to hear how to pronounce difficult words in either a British or American English accent.

Some will want to roam the less salubrious lexical quarters. No problem.

The software has a four-tier content filtering system, from the most constricted to a totally unabridged version.

The Visual Thesaurus is a highly stimulating illustrative language tool.

If, however, you're looking for a comprehensive reference resource and feel more comfortable with a traditional thesaurus you may be better served by Microsoft Word's excellent Thesaurus and Dictionary or one of the electronic reference books from the Oxford University Press (

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today