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Q&A

How can I search for words by meaning/definition?

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Where can I search for words using descriptive sentences? For example, now I'm looking for a word meaning "to purify (by hand) a quantity of grain and take away anything that isn't good grain."

How could I get words like that? I know it in my first-language, but I don't have a classic version of it to use in automatic translators.

Maybe a search engine that uses content words from my description and offers words that could mean the same with their dictionary definitions. Nothing I'd tried in (translate.)google.com gave me the desired result.


Update:

An example dictionary that I use is (Oxford's Word-Power Dictionary). It's not for the purpose of the question but for clarification.

Oxford's has a 3,000 word list of 'bare-bone-essentials.' It contains the most-used words in English and all of the grammatical operators. Ideally, these are the words necessary for a learner to use an English-English dictionary such as Oxford's. The descriptions of words in Oxford's rely on this list for definitions.

An electronic (web-based) dictionary for word-meaning-search should have a larger list (maybe 10,000) and use a thesaurus to down-level difficult words a user may use in the search then, using all content words in the search phrase, present a list of words whose definitions seem appropriate. Another regular dictionary may be used from there.

  • Example:

    Search query: "to use hands to purify a quantity of grain taking away anything that isn't good grain."

    Content Words: "use-hands; purify; quantity-of-grain; taking-away; anything; isn't; good-grain"

    Filtered: "use-hands; clean; quantity-of-seeds; take-away;anything; not-good-grain"

    Words: "1; 2; 3; 4" that use the content words to varying degrees.

And that's a five minutes' work!


PS. Sorry about the delay; connection problems...

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/5492. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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2 answers

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Does the OneLook Reverse Dictionary work for this? You still need to winnow down your search phrase, but it might work. (Information from this answer.)

However, good ol' Google will sometimes do this as well; just type in "word that means" and the rest of a short phrase. For example, here's the search phrase "Word that means separating wheat from chaff". The first search result is "winnow", which may or may not be the word you're looking for.

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It's a phrase in English, not a word: "Separating the wheat from the chaff."

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