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Have you ever see a Thesaurus? You won't find one in a museum of natural history. Nor, will you encounter one in a wax museum or on the pages of a history book. You may be astonished to discover that the Thesaurus is not yet extinct. It has survived the ages. In fact, it's a book!

Yes, it's a book - a rather interesting book at that, and a wonderful resourse to increase your vocabulary and reading comprehension.

If you are not familiar with a Thesaurus, bear with me. A Thesaurus is a book of like words. I like to call it a book of "almost synonymes."

As an ESL student, you need a Thesaurus to understand the meaning of words you don't know. When you look up a word in a Thesaurus you will probably find a word you know. Let's look at this example:

While reading a short story you come across the word "prestidigitation." Having never seen this word before you reach for your dictionary to look it up. The dictionary tells you it means"slight of hand," and that it's a noun. It also tells you that there is another somewhat related word, also a noun, "prestidigitator."

So, ... now what? You still don't know what it means.

Let's try the Thesaurus.

Main Entry: prestidigitation
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: magic
Synonyms: abracadabra, alchemy, allurement, astrology, augury, bewitchment, black art, conjuration, conjuring, conjury, devilry, diabolism, divination, enchantment, exorcism, fascination, foreboding, fortune-telling, hocuspocus, horoscopy, illusion, incantation, legerdemain, magnetism, necromancy, occultism, power, prediction, presage, prophecy, rune, sleight of hand, soothsaying, sorcery, sortilege, spell, superstition, taboo*, thaumaturgy, trickery, voodoo, voodooism, witchcraft, wizardry

Can you find one synonym that you recognize and understand? I hope so!

Eureka! "Prestidigitation" is magic, so a "prestidigitator " must be a magician or "magic man."
Thesauruses come in many forms. The simple ones just list synonymes; others list the parts of speach and give sample sentences to clarify the proper usage of the word.

Pick one, but don't study English without this prehistoric friend.

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