Historical Synonym Word Clouds.

From “Spiflicated, mopsy, and spondulicks: historical synonyms for everyday things” at the Oxford Dictionaries blog:

In Words in Time and Place, David Crystal explores fifteen fascinating sets of synonyms, using the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.

We’ve turned selections from six sections of Words in Time and Place into word clouds, arranged in a shape related to the topic in question. Take a look at the images below to see historical synonyms for a range of everyday things: terms of endearment, being drunk, dying, fools, money, and the lavatory.

I wrote about the Historical Thesaurus here and here; I’m sure Crystal’s book about it is as worth reading as everything he writes. And the word clouds are fun to look at.


  1. At Crystal’s own blog he has been wondering what to call these “word-cloud calligrams”.

  2. They’re much more calligram than word-cloud, aren’t they? For me a “word-cloud” should represent word frequency in a source text by the size and/or position of the word in the “cloud.” Perhaps it could represent some other information about the word (e.g. its dates of use, in this case?), but there should be some metatextual information represented. Yet to see a useful one. Crystal’s aren’t useful either (not any more-so than a list of historical synonyms), but they’re nice to look at precisely because they aren’t shaped like clouds.

  3. In my childhood “spifflicated” meant being tickled mercilessly (relatively).

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