Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Using a reverse dictionary


So.... What's a reverse dictionary?  
A reverse dictionary is a simple concept--it's a place where you look up definitions and find words.  It will often help you rephrase a search query in a way that you might not have thought about, or supply the key term that will lead to success.  
There actually are lots of reverse dictionaries out there, but I tend to use OneLook because it has a relatively powerful search interface.  You don't always need all these search features, but when you do, it's really nice to have.  
Hints to using the OneLook reverse dictionary:  

  • The results are rank-ordered.  That is, the best matches will be at the beginning of the results list.
  • Click on the word to verify its definition.
  • The dictionary definitions are arranged according to categories of – General, Art, Business, Computing, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Religion, Science, Slang, Sports, Tech andPhrases. Phrases and slangs sometimes give interesting variations for use in writing.
  • More generally, you can use wildcard patterns to expand on the queries:   
    • Asterisk (*) equals any number of characters. For instance, search love* ] to get all words and phrases like love-bird that begin with "love"
    • The question mark (?) matches exactly one character. For instance, type  l?v? ] to get all words that match
    • The number-sign (#) matches any single-character consonant. [ ##over ] will match "plover"
    • Similarly, the at-sign (@) matches any vowel [ k@n ] 
  • A relatedness search combines two wildcards. For instance, a search fort*:salesman ] will give words and phrases starting with “˜t’ and related to salesman
  • Get the full complement of acronyms by using the expand shorthand. For instance,expand:USA.


Example:  Here I did a search on [ *:shovel ] which is the normal reverse dictionary operation.  OneLook shows up a list of words that use "shovel" in their definitions.  A great way to look for synonyms and related concepts.  
Example:  Here I did a search on [ shovel ] giving just definitions from a wide variety of sources.    


There are more tips in the Help section of the OneLook website.
Searching on... at the word level!  

Search on... even on other search engines!

3 comments:

  1. http://adjectives-balayogi.blogspot.com/
    -reverse dictionary of adjectives partially done and still under construction
    http://adjectives-balayogi.blogspot.com/2010/05/adjective-finder-or-reverse-dictionary.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is also another Reverse Dictionary at http://www.freescrabbledictionary.com/reverse-dictionary/

    ReplyDelete
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