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What is Code Thesaurus?

It is a polyglot developer reference tool originally created to help you compare a language you know with one you don't. The main purpose is to be a quick and easy way to help people that use a lot of programming languages and have to context switch between them. It also allows you to pick up how to use a new programming language fast without needing to read documentation.


The concept of Code Thesaurus was invented by Sarah Withee back in 2015. She was approached by another developer on a community Slack team and was asked if she could help debug something in Ruby, a language she hadn't used before. Having used about six languages at the time, she looked at the person's code and found the issue. The problem was she didn't know how to fix it. After rummaging through Ruby's documentation and not finding what she was looking for, she knew how to do it in another language and wished she could just compare them side-by-side instead.

Time and time again, she ended up either working in a new language at a job, staring at someone else's code, or trying to fix some issue somewhere that she knew, in concept how to fix, but just struggling digging through documentation trying to find that right solution.

She searched for a long time trying to find someone that had built such a tool already. She found numerous cheat sheets, or examples of programming problems written in several languages, but not syntactical comparisons. After about a year of trying to think through the problem of "How could you compare any two languages together?" as well as "How do I build a system that is easy and encouraging to add language data to?", she finally started slowly working on this project.

The base of the project was mostly built during Hacktoberfest 2018 and Hacktoberfest 2019 in PHP and Symfony. It was converted to Python and Django just before Hacktoberfest 2020. During Hacktoberfest 2021, it was mentioned several times in the Hacktoberfest Discord server, which resulted in over 70 pull requests in one month! It continues to get numerous contributions every Hacktoberfest.

Since then, it's had 110+ contributors add 340+ pull requests to the main code base and 20+ to the documentation!


Sarah envisions Code Thesaurus to be an all-in-one reference tool for any developer to use to quickly look up or compare programming language information they don't know. The hope is that as many programming languages can be added as possible, and to have as many concepts covered as possible.

The future of Code Thesaurus also includes being able to look up and compare other things like database queries, algorithms, data structures, REST frameworks, CSS generators, and many more!

Last update: 2023-10-01