Preface to the New Edition

The present edition of a work which, now some twenty years before the public, may justly be said to have maintained a standard character, has been undertaken at the request of the author’s family. The Editor takes pleasure in saying that, in the minute revision to which the book has been subjected, he has found little more to do than to carry out to a greater completeness the lines of Mr. Soule’s original design. That design, not only in its general conception, but in the execution of its details, seems to him, on the whole, the best that any single work on Synonymes in our language affords,—an impression which has grown stronger during the process of comparison with the chief works of that class rendered necessary in preparing this edition, and which it is believed a like comparison on the part of readers will surely corroborate.

The judicious consulter of a synonymic dictionary will readily acquiesce in the statement that a perfect manual of that sort is impossible within the compass of a single work of convenient size and arrangement. Three distinct points of view are necessary to fulfil the wants that are sure to arise when such a work has to be consulted,—the writer, seeking for the most suitable expression, may set out from the less suitable word; or from the vague general notion that he obscurely aims to express; or, finally, from several words of cognate meaning, the exactly suitable one of which he would determine by a close discrimination between them. A work on Synonymes may thus have for its purpose either an alphabetic list of all the more important words in the language, with their various meanings or shades of meaning set down under them, each followed by its appropriate synonymes; or a list of general notions, duly named and properly divided and subdivided, with the words and phrases that belong to the expression of each collected under them as fully as possible; or, again, the collocation of words allied in meaning with subjoined disquisitions on the shades of difference between them. The latter conception has been the prevailing one among English makers of synonymic dictionaries, and is represented by the well-known work of Crabb, as well as by any; the second is that of Roget’s Thesaurus; while the first is that of Soule. It is safe to say that while each is indispensable to a perfect fulfilment of a writer’s possible wants, the first is that which is most comprehensive, most convenient and rapid in use, and most likely to meet the requirements of the greatest number of persons.

In endeavoring to carry out Mr. Soule’s plan to greater perfection, the chief aim, beyond the correction of press-errors and obvious lapses of the pen, has been to discriminate the various senses of leading words more exactly, completing the distinction where it already existed in part, and supplying it where it was lacking. Besides this, the labor has been mainly confined to enlarging the lists of synonymic words and phrases. The number of such expressions has been increased, on an average, by about a third. For this purpose free use has been made of the new editions of Roget’s Thesaurus and the Imperial Dictionary.

The Editor takes pleasure in making special acknowledgment of the assistance rendered him by Miss C. N. Bynner. The primary revision of nearly one half of the text has been done by her; and the thoroughness and accurate knowledge of our vocabulary, with which she has performed her task, have rendered the labor of final revision in that portion of the book comparatively light.

In a work involving so many details, it is impossible but that errors will have been left or committed, in spite of all endeavors to the contrary. Notice of any such, detected by readers, will be received with thanks.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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