Monday, August 29, 2011

Dumesnil: Latin Synonyms

Latin Synonyms by Jean Baptiste Gardin Dumesnil (1825)

This is an English translation of a French book, with an introduction by the English translator who describes the book as follows: "The present volume contains the explanations of near 7000 words, each of which is exemplified by appropriate quotations from the most elegant writers of ancient Rome, and leaves but little difficulty in the choice of the proper expression to convey their meaning in English, when translating, or the most elegant word or phrase in rendering English into Latin." The arrangement of the book is basically alphabetical, by the Latin headwords, but there is also an alphabetical table in the front to facilitate the finding of specific words, as some Latin words are presented as synonyms rather than as headwords. So, for example, entry 1330 is "Induere. Vestire," so if you are looking for vestire you need to use the table at the beginning of the book. The entry then consists of a series of Latin phrases illustrating the use and meaning of the Latin word; citations are provided for the Latin phrases, but they are not translated. In some ways, the passages cited are just what you would expect to find in a Latin dictionary; the advantage of this book is that it encourages you to read and compare closely related Latin words, something that is harder to do in a dictionary organized on strictly alphabetical principles.



  1. There are some other comparable dictionaries of Latin synonyms, the two I'm aware of being those of (1) Ramshorn, and (2) Döderlein, both, I believe translated from German, and the Ramshorn being based on the Dumesnil.

    Also I seem to recall once having come across a dictionary of English synonyms done along similar lines.

  2. In some ways, it is kind of like what we call in English a "thesaurus" - I'm not sure if that word "thesaurus" is used in other languages, too, or just in English...?