March 5, 2008

Word for idea

As a lexicographer, I share the common frustration of trying to find the word for what you mean, locating the precise word for what you want to say. For those like me who have an idea, concept, or definition but who do not know, cannot remember, or are uncertain of the word, we offer help in the form of the Reverse Dictionary.

The Reverse Dictionary is a creativity and idea generator, entertainment, inspiration, a vocabulary builder, word puzzle and game help, word/name/place finder, and a writing aid for browsers, businesspeople, consumers, students, trivia buffs, word-game players, and writers.

The Reverse Dictionary tries to take the user from “meaning” to “word” rather than the conventional, alphabetical format where you have to know the word and thereby are given its meaning. If you don’t know the word, it is hard to look it up in an alphabetical dictionary, even online. The Reverse Dictionary helps in those instances where you struggle to recall something and it continues to elude you.

You can shake the answers out of your memory with the Reverse Dictionary. The answers or “target” words have been carefully selected to exclude extremely easy or extremely hard words but rather to envelop the range of words that can elude users so easily. The “cue/clue” words are carefully framed in ways that make the “target” words readily findable. Those “cue/clue” words lead into the definitions of the “target” words and the compiler has chosen familiar words that users would think of when trying to recall the “target” words.

Though it would be impractical to provide every possible “cue/clue” to a “target” word, the Reverse Dictionary seeks out the most probable and generative choices. Even if you have never used a reverse dictionary, it’s easy to learn what constitutes useful and less useful “cue/clue” words. Good bets are the more concrete “cues/clues” like ear, church, office, clear, emotion, and soften. Less useful “cues/clues” would generate too many entries: tiny, first, fat are cues/clues which could describe hundreds of “target” words.

We do not attempt to give a complete definition or description of every word in the Reverse Dictionary search results; instead, we give you just enough information to identify the word or phrase you’re looking for, with a link to look up the full definition - at, of course.

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