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View Full Version : Online Thesaurus, etc. Recommendations



tabasco5
August 6th, 2013, 09:21 PM
I'm trying to accumulate some good online wordsmithing tools and current use the standard thesaurus.com for synonyms, but also onelook.com's Reverse Dictionary for concepts. While thesaurus.com and onelook.com usually suffice, there are times when neither one points me in the right direction. So, does anyone have any similar online tools to share that can help in the search for the perfect word?

tabasco5
August 9th, 2013, 07:24 PM
Anyone?

Shadoe
August 11th, 2013, 12:04 AM
I'm pretty much just dictionary.com - which is the same as thesaurus.com. Though I'm going to be checking out onelook.com now.

Sintalion
August 13th, 2013, 03:09 PM
So, does anyone have any similar online tools to share that can help in the search for the perfect word?

Mostly, if I can't find it in one of the sources listed, I'd consider the fact that maybe I'm not thinking of the right word to search for. That, or that I'm spending too much time hung over on that one word in particular.

tabasco5
August 13th, 2013, 04:54 PM
Mostly, if I can't find it in one of the sources listed, I'd consider the fact that maybe I'm not thinking of the right word to search for. That, or that I'm spending too much time hung over on that one word in particular.

I probably should have phrased it differently. My hangups mostly occur over concepts. I am trying to think of a certain type of concept, and can think of the words related to it, but have difficulty sorting through it to find the wording. I do fuss over words occasionally as well, but can generally get those sorted out with a thesaurus.

Overall, I think I'm looking for an easy button when what I should be doing is spending more time thinking through the problems and figuring things out on my own...

tabasco5
August 22nd, 2013, 06:03 PM
I do have an update on this subject I should mention. I just purchased an iPhone 5 and downloaded an app for $2.99 called Thesaurus Rex, which is an app created by dictionary.com. The app works very well for me, is easy to navigate, and has options to filter words by syllables and others. With the purchase of my NEO, iP5 and a few apps, I have been able to get rid of using my computer for research during my actual writing which has greatly increased my productivity. If I need a synonym or spelling, I have the thesaurus and dictionary apps. If I need to know distance or directions between places, I have a maps app. If I need to research something, I have safari.

So to sum it up, the iPhone 5 and Thesaurus Rex are highly recommended.

Sam
August 22nd, 2013, 07:12 PM
If you need to look for new words in a thesaurus, you're using them for the wrong reason. A writer doesn't suddenly think "what big word can I use to say 'alone'" and then consult a thesaurus to find out. S/he uses a word because it's the right one to use and not because s/he wants to sound like a writer.

Learn new words by encountering them while reading and then looking them up in the dictionary to discover their proper usage.

lasm
August 22nd, 2013, 07:31 PM
If you need to look for new words in a thesaurus, you're using them for the wrong reason. A writer doesn't suddenly think "what big word can I use to say 'alone'" and then consult a thesaurus to find out. S/he uses a word because it's the right one to use and not because s/he wants to sound like a writer.

Learn new words by encountering them while reading and then looking them up in the dictionary to discover their proper usage.
Using a thesaurus isn't necessarily about trying to impress people with obscure multisyllabic monstrosities. Sometimes the right word doesn't come to me immediately, and I think, It's like falling but different, clumsier, more accidental, what the word, like when you trip, argh. In these situations I look at the thesaurus. And then I think, Oh, yes, tumble, that's what I want. It's a normal word, one I know already, but for whatever reason I just need to be reminded of its existence. Or someone writing poetry might need to look for synonyms with the right number of syllables or the right suffix. So there are perfectly good reasons and ways to use a thesaurus, as well as that one bad one.

I usually just use thesaurus.com.

ppsage
August 22nd, 2013, 07:41 PM
A writer doesn't suddenly think "what big word can I use to say 'alone'" and then consult a thesaurus to find out. I'm almost always looking in the thesaurus to get rid of the big word which I know will look bad to a lot of folks. It's useful for that; especially as my vocabulary continues to disappear. I also get the notion of not remembering the language around a specific concept and usually just google for a while to see if anything jogs loose. In the text I use square brackets to indicate that I failed to discover the correct nuance and time usually [provides] an answer, especially if I keep the question somewhere in the front brain by reviewing the text frequently. For pieces where exact wording is more essential, I sometimes keep vocabulary lists because the words don't always come in sequence. [supplies is on the dictionary.com list and I think maybe it's better here.]

tabasco5
August 22nd, 2013, 08:12 PM
If you need to look for new words in a thesaurus, you're using them for the wrong reason.

Please explain what you mean by "new words." And what is the right reason for using a word?

A writer doesn't suddenly think "what big word can I use to say 'alone'" and then consult a thesaurus to find out.

This is too generic, and not exactly what I am thinking about. Why would it matter the size of a word? But if the writer did happen to want a "big" word, wouldn't a thesaurus be a tool for that as well?

S/he uses a word because it's the right one to use and not because s/he wants to sound like a writer.

Doesn't a thesaurus help with this? Finding the right word? What does "sound like a writer" mean? What do writers "sound" like? Do they make sounds?

Learn new words by encountering them while reading and then looking them up in the dictionary to discover their proper usage.

Is it not allowed to use a thesaurus in conjunction with a dictionary? If one encounters a word in a book, then looks for the definition in a dictionary and wants to recall that word a year down the road, could he not consult a thesaurus? Or should he find that same book or dictionary to do that?

tabasco5
August 22nd, 2013, 08:34 PM
Sorry Sam, I just saw your quote and realized what your intention was -- "Appear strong when you are weak, and weak when you are strong" ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War. You had me going there for a while :)

Sam
August 22nd, 2013, 08:51 PM
Please explain what you mean by "new words." And what is the right reason for using a word?

By 'new words', I mean using the thesaurus to find synonyms for words you already know in order to boost your vocabulary. For instance, while 'silent' and 'stealthy' are synonyms, they don't mean the same thing. A thesaurus doesn't tell you that. It gives you a list of related words to the one you looked up. To truly understand how to use a word, you need to know its meaning and how to use it in a sentence, otherwise you're using it in the wrong way and for the wrong reason.


This is too generic, and not exactly what I am thinking about. Why would it matter the size of a word? But if the writer did happen to want a "big" word, wouldn't a thesaurus be a tool for that as well?
No, for the reasons I've outlined above. Unless you know the meaning of the 'big' word and how it can be used, you'll inevitably use it the wrong way. A by "use it the wrong way", I mean say something like, "He moved reticently down the hallway", because you saw that 'reticent' is a synonym of silent. But 'reticent' means "not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily" and has nothing to do with the act of stealth. That's my point. A thesaurus gives you a bunch of related words but doesn't tell you what they mean.


Doesn't a thesaurus help with this? Finding the right word? What does "sound like a writer" mean? What do writers "sound" like? Do they make sounds?
It's the use of bombastic language in an attempt to show that one is 'writerly'. Every other sentence contains ten-dollar words that are esoteric (see what I did there?) and often pointless. The moral of this anecdote is that you should use the word when it fits the sentence and you know it makes sense, and not build a sentence around a word because you want to show off. When I wrote the above sentences, I knew that I needed a word to describe extravagant and showy language. I picked 'bombastic' because I knew what it meant and it fitted the sentence. I didn't write the sentence with 'extravagant language' and then decide to consult a thesaurus to say it in a different way. I knew what word I needed because I encountered it once, looked it up in the dictionary, and committed the definition to memory.

That's my point. I'm not saying don't use synonyms. I'm saying to know when to use them and why.

tabasco5
August 22nd, 2013, 09:18 PM
By 'new words', I mean using the thesaurus to find synonyms for words you already know in order to boost your vocabulary.

I would think there would be better ways for boosting vocabulary than a thesaurus, but I guess you are correct--it could help even if that is not its main function.

For instance, while 'silent' and 'stealthy' are synonyms, they don't mean the same thing. A thesaurus doesn't tell you that. It gives you a list of related words to the one you looked up.

Exactly, use the tool for its purpose. A dictionary is needed to understand meaning more so than a thesaurus, though thesauruses (pl.?) are starting to incorporate basic definitions.

To truly understand how to use a word, you need to know its meaning and how to use it in a sentence, otherwise you're using it in the wrong way and for the wrong reason.

I don't agree with this, mainly based on the vagueness of this statement. One does not have to know everything about a word to use it.


No, for the reasons I've outlined above. Unless you know the meaning of the 'big' word and how it can be used, you'll inevitably use it the wrong way.

Maybe, but maybe not. To each his own, no?

A by "use it the wrong way", I mean say something like, "He moved reticently down the hallway", because you saw that 'reticent' is a synonym of silent. But 'reticent' means "not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily" and has nothing to do with the act of stealth. That's my point. A thesaurus gives you a bunch of related words but doesn't tell you what they mean.

I see your point, but one still must use discernment with any tool. The thesaurus is used to find a synonym, not provide meaning necessarily. For the reticent example though, I would need more of a context to give a concrete answer. While it might not work for some situations, it will for others.


It's the use of bombastic language in an attempt to show that one is 'writerly'. Every other sentence contains ten-dollar words that are esoteric (see what I did there?) and often pointless.

Agreed here. Very annoying when this happens.

The moral of this anecdote is that you should use the word when it fits the sentence and you know it makes sense, and not build a sentence around a word because you want to show off.

Well said.

When I wrote the above sentences, I knew that I needed a word to describe extravagant and showy language. I picked 'bombastic' because I knew what it meant and it fitted the sentence. I didn't write the sentence with 'extravagant language' and then decide to consult a thesaurus to say it in a different way. I knew what word I needed because I encountered it once, looked it up in the dictionary, and committed the definition to memory.

This reminds me of Jimmy Bruno. He can practice a certain lick or solo, and it will come back to him when he needs it 5 to 10 years down the road. If only I could do this I guess I wouldn't need a thesaurus!

That's my point. I'm not saying don't use synonyms. I'm saying to know when to use them and why.


​And enlist the help of a thesaurus for that!

Jon M
August 23rd, 2013, 12:51 AM
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J Anfinson
August 24th, 2013, 10:25 PM
I like using a thesaurus to remind me of similar words, but I sure won't use anything if I don't know the meaning. And I never go looking for a "ten dollar word" just to look smart. I think most of the time the best word is the simple one. I see the act of writing being about clarity. A thesaurus can be good for that.

anathematized_one
September 16th, 2013, 06:43 PM
My favourite has always been www.thefreedictionary.com (http://www.thefreedictionary.com).

It is an all-in-one dictionary and thesaurus. Actually, you search for a word and you have everything on one page (instead of having to browse through tabs). It even organises the synonyms in the thesaurus section by word meaning and/or context. Some word pages even have a section on usage (say the technical and understood meanings, when to use this word or when to use a different synonym as they'll give off varying connotations, etc).

It even has a translation section, including idiomatic expressions. For example, if you go to Google Translate and type in "bleeding heart" (what is understood in English to be a person who is over-caring, over-empathetic, over-sympathetic, over-helping etc), you will not get back a single word or phrase that means the same in German, yet there is a word that means the same thing (Sensibelchen), and thefreedictionary properly suggests this translation. In fact, when you translate, it shows the translated word then defines it in whatever you have the site language set as (example, English).

It is also really good about showing more than just whether or not a word is a noun or verb, it also shows alternative spellings, archaic spellings/meanings, word history/origin, whether or not it is a pejorative, famous quotations, usage history and notes, etc. And it's all on ONE page when you search for a word, no need to look on another page for synonyms or another page for history, etc. The thesaurus section also tells you related (non-synonym) words and antonyms.

Also, I only skimmed some of the other posts that didn't recommend anywhere to go, and I have no idea if anyone said anything along these lines, but there's not a single thing wrong with using a thesaurus. When you use a thesaurus, people assume you're trying to find words beyond your reading/writing level to sound smarter (it's often used as an ad hominem in arguments on-line in the form of "I see somebody knows how to use a thesaurus" or "nice Googling skills"). I understand your need to use a thesaurus though. Often times, when I am writing poetry, I don't like to use the same word or phrase more than once (if it is a key description or word), and sometimes I can't think of a word. Or other times I know what I want to say, but don't have the exact correct words to use and will have to look up other words. Say you were, for example, writing a poem about the night and didn't want to use "moon" or "the moon" or "Luna" to talk about the moon. What then would you do? Thesaurus.

Also, there is a book I saw once in Barnes & Noble, it's a dictionary for "pretentious smart people" or something. I don't remember exactly what the title is, but it is a very large book that contains poetic phrasing and words which colloquially mean certain things, but are synonyms and understands that you'll see often in say poetry, but won't ever find in a thesaurus.

tabasco5
September 17th, 2013, 04:25 PM
Thanks for the recommendation anathematized. I am going to try out the free dictionary.

Morkonan
September 28th, 2013, 09:32 PM
People have been using Thesori for years, there's no harm in writer's using them, too. It's when a writer uses them in order to spend a few three-dollar words that their work gets in trouble. Any reasonable reader can spot a "fake wordsmith" a mile away.

I use a thesaurus in order to give me prompts, if I'm hanging on a word, or to help me generate new ideas. Sometimes, the exact word I want will come, sometimes it doesn't.

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter it's the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning." - Mark Twain