5th Grade - Using A Thesaurus

Using a thesaurus
Use a thesaurus to identify alternative word choices and meanings. (research and technology)
Be able to find synonyms and antonyms for words (according to the meaning, part of speech, and connotation you have in mind) using a thesaurus.

Sample Problems


True or False: A thesaurus can help you avoid repetition in your writing. (true)


Use a _________ to look up meanings whenever you want to use a synonym or antonym that is unfamiliar to you. (dictionary)


True or False: There is only one kind of thesaurus. (false: there are two main kinds: an index system and alphabetical)


True or False: In a thesaurus, the words are listed with their part of speech. (true)


True or False: The more common meanings of a word come before the less common meanings. (true)

Learning Tips



Thesaurus–a collection of synonyms and antonyms. Thesauri may be organized alphabetically or with an index in the back.

Synonyms- words which have basically the same meaning.

Antonyms- words which have basically opposite meaning.

Connotation- the overtones or meanings that a word suggests.

Denotation- the dictionary definition or explicit meaning of a word.


Shades Of Meaning:

Using the Thesaurus With the Dictionary

No two words mean exactly the same idea, so you can’t replace one word for another without changing the meaning, at least slightly. That’s why the English language is so rich and interesting.

We turn to a thesaurus to find new ways to express ourselves, but we must also use a dictionary if you have any doubt about the meaning. This way, you gain a solid understanding of new words and increase your vocabulary at the same time.

If you have any doubt at all about what a word means, look it up in the dictionary. Then use it in context- in a sample sentence- to make sure it sounds right and says what you want it to say.


Connotations and Denotations

Words have different connotations--different implied meanings--and if you use a word you're not familiar with, you may be saying something that you didn't intend to say.

A dictionary will give you the denotation of a word (the dictionary meaning—remember both denotation and dictionary start with a “d”) , but reading words in context is the best way to get a feel of their connotations.

If you are not exactly sure about the connotation, see if you can get a sense of whether it’s positive or negative.

For example, consider the words "slender" and "skinny." Both words are found under the heading thin in the thesaurus, but "slender" has a positive connotation, while "skinny" does has a negative connotation. Read these sentences:

"The slender man walked down the street."

"The skinny man walked down the street."

The words are synonyms, but did you see the same images?



Antonyms comes from the Greek anti, meaning opposite, and onoma, meaning name. Some antonyms come automatically to us. See how quickly you can think of the antonyms to these words:




Did you immediately think of cold, out, and down?

Watch out though, since words may have different antonyms, depending on how that word is used. For example, is short’s antonym long or tall? Both could work, depending on the context.

Pretend it’s opposite day and replace each bolded word with an appropriate antonym. Use a thesaurus to help you!

Please pass the salt and pepper.

My aunt insulted my painting.

Jane made great progress on her book report.

Her decorating style is very simple.

I need to separate the art supplies.


Common Meanings and Parts of Speech

A thesaurus will include synonyms and antonyms for the different possible meanings of words. Sometimes you want the most common meaning- which will usually be the first one listed- and sometimes you don’t. You have to choose the meaning that suits you, then choose from the relevant synonyms or antonyms listed.

A quick way to find what you want is to think about the part of speech. For example, think about the word book. Do you mean book, a noun, like a book you read? Or do you want book, the verb, as in book the tickets?

Try it yourself by replacing the word “good” in each sentence below. Use a thesaurus to find other words.

The child's behavior had been good all day.

It is a good day today.

They sell good clothes in that shop.

He is a good runner.

They all had a good time.

His results in the test were good.

She was a good mother.

It is a good walk from my house to school

It’s for your own good.

He showed me the good I was doing as a teacher.

Don’t pass by the goods on that table.

Extra Help Problems


True or False: You should use any synonym listed in a thesaurus, whether or not you know what it means. (false)


Which is not a synonym for walked:

a) sneaked

b) made

c) rambled

d) paced



Which is not a synonym for said:

a) commented

b) skipped

c) expressed

d) replied



Which is not an antomyn for riddle:

a) answer

b) joke

c) key

d) solution



Which is not an antomyn for found:

a) missing

b) gone

c) lost

d) locker



Which is not an antomyn for ancient:

a) old

b) new

c) recent

d) current



Which is not an antomyn for reward:

a) punishment

b) gone

c) lost

d) locker



True or False: A thesaurus can help you find a word for an idea you have in mind. (true)


True or False: Thesauri also contain antonyms, wordlists, and other helpful features. (true)


True or False: You should use any synonym listed in a thesaurus, whether or not you know what it means. (false)


True or False: Synonyms may have other meanings as well, but they have at least one meaning in common with the entry word and the other synonyms in the list. (true)


Which other reference book is usually used in conjunction with a thesaurus? (a dictionary)


True or False: A word can only have one synonym. (false)


True or False: A word can only have one antonym. (false)


True or False: A word can only have one meaning. (false)


True or False: A word can only have one part of speech. (false)


True or False: No two words are directly interchangeable. (true)


If you don't know the word, you should ____________ before using it. (look it up in a dictionary)


True or False: It’s always better to use a longer word instead of a shorter one. (false


True or False: You can use a thesaurus to increase your vocabulary and learn new words. (true)


True or False: A typical thesaurus has synonyms for more than 100,000 words. (true)


True or False: Thesauri have only synonyms. (false)


True or False: You can use the thesaurus to avoid repeating words within a sentence. (true)


True or False: A thesaurus is a tool that can help you when you are writing and revising. (true)


True or False: Using the same word over and over again is okay when you write. (false)


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