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!


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

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  3. You can Find & Replace special characters like Paragraph, Tab and Lines as you do in MS Word etc. in many doc, docx, rtf files. word find and replace software