General Question

CyanoticWasp's avatar

How can I look up a word when all I have is a definition?

Asked by CyanoticWasp (20063points) September 6th, 2010

Yesterday, Jeruba answered another user’s question with a word that meant pretty much what was being asked for. Since I don’t have any assurance that Jeruba will be around every time I need to know, how can I look up words that I don’t even know exist? (That is, beyond synonyms for words that I already know; we’re not talking about a thesaurus here.)

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8 Answers

Nullo's avatar

Just ask us, we’ll tell you.

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Jeruba's avatar

That was a lucky shot, @CyanoticWasp. I learned that word over dinner back in May, when a friend who is more of a word geek than I am used it to label a remark that I had just made. This was my first chance to use it, and I gave myself a high five for being able to retrieve it when the situation arose.

All the figures of speech you ever wanted to know the names of surely must be here: Silva Rhetoricae.

As for words in general, I when I have the problem of an elusive word (happens more often all the time in these latter years), I have several modes of attack:

First recourse is to ask my husband.

Second is the thesaurus, preferably a real (hard copy) one, Roget’s, and not dictionary-style, either, which loses all the benefits of category and relationship.

Third, I sneak up on it by Googling with whatever I’ve got. This works best when I’m going after a word that I haven’t forgotten but rather simply never knew: “There must be a term for this.” Sometimes it takes several iterations and layers of search, but eventually I will get close enough by unearthing an actual term that has a meaning close to what I’m after. Then I take that back to the thesaurus and ultimately to the dictionary or an encyclopedia for confirmation.

You guys here don’t always see how long it takes me to come up with an instantaneous response to something.

ETpro's avatar

I was going to suggest the Reverse Dictionary but @JilltheTooth Beat me too it. Still, I am glad I dropped by to pick up the link to Silvia Rhetoricae that @Jeruba supplied. Here Googling suggestion is quite effective as well, as is @Nullo.‘s What are Social Q&A sites for if not finding answers from online friends?

foreverSwift's avatar

Look up the definition.

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