The reverse dictionary is getting its first major upgrade in many years. Thank you for helping to test it out!
The overarching goal of the new system is to help you find the right word for your writing needs as fast as possible. Here are the key differences between the new tool (now ready for testing at http://www.onelook.com/thesaurus/) and the old system:
More breadth and precision for single-concept queries. User feedback has taught us that most people use the OneLook reverse dictionary as a kind of thesaurus and conceptual exploration tool. The improvements in this update are targeted at this kind of usage. For these sorts of queries the system does a statistical analysis of text to find a broad range of related words and phrases.
Consider a word such as celebration. A traditional thesaurus lists synonyms like festivity. OneLook's goal is to list these well-accepted synonyms and the many words that are similar but not quite interchangeable: words like fiesta and carnival and extravaganza. Next time you write "glimmer of hope", consider some variants of a glimmer that really shimmer, words like modicum or spark. The most closely related concepts are listed first, so if you just want the conventional synonyms, you'll get those right up front.
As before, you can restrict your results by part of speech using the tabs on the results screen. This feature is more useful than before for single-concept queries. Clicking on the "Adjectives" tab will give you ways that celebration is commonly described, such as annual or joyful or communal. Clicking on the "Verbs" tab will give you action words related to celebrations such as participate, planned, commemorate, etc. Searching for eat and then clicking "Adverbs" tells you different ways that people eat, such as heartily and healthily and sparingly and gluttonously. Searching for fortified and then clicking on "Nouns" tells you things that are frequently fortified, like a camp and a castle and a stronghold and so forth.
Filters. You can apply filters to narrow down your results based on spelling, sound, and meaning. Click on "Show filters" after your search to reveal these options.
"Starts with" lets you narrow the results by alphabetic prefix, which is useful if you know the first letter or first few letters of what you're looking for. For example, if you want to explore words related to dog that start with the letters "sh", just search for dog and enter sh into the "Starts with" box to get results like schnauzer and sheltie and Shih Tzu.
This and the "Number of letters" filter are also useful for crossword enthusiasts and other puzzlers. With these two filters, most users will not need to remember the wildcard patterns from OneLook, although that syntax continues to work in the new system.
The "Vowels like" filter restricts the results to words that are assonant (share a primary vowel sound) with some other word, a more agile alternative to rhyme. Consider a contrived example drawn from the beloved opening line of Hamilton. Suppose you'd like to enliven the phrase "dropped in a neglected place in the Carribean". You might seek out alternatives for neglected and place that share the vowel sound in dropped. Searching for "neglected" and then doing a "Vowels like" filter on "dropped" yields forgotten, among others; searching for "place" and then doing a "Vowels like" filter on "dropped" yields spot. The assonance-rich line "dropped in some forgotten spot in the Carribean" sounds so much better!
The "Stress pattern" filter finds words that match a particular metrical foot. You can describe the pattern by entering a sequence of 1s and 0s, where 1 represents a stressed syllable, and 0 an unstressed syllable. As an example, consider the many hundreds of words similar to surprising. Depending on your metrical needs, you might pick an iamb like bizarre (unstressed-stressed), a trochee like shocking (stressed-unstressed), a dactyl like puzzling (stressed-unstressed-unstressed), or even an amphibrach like amazing (unstressed-stressed-unstressed).
The filters are applied to your results dynamically without taking you to a new web page, making it faster to explore a wide range of possibilities. The link in your browser's address bar updates to reflect your filters so that you can share your result lists with your colleagues and collaborators or save them for later.
Quick definitions are shown in a panel on the same page when you click on a result, so that you don't lose your train of thought while exploring definitions. From these panels you can navigate to the full OneLook definitions page (the "Definitions" link), or to a follow-up query on the reverse dictionary ("Related"), or to another data source ("Wikipedia" and "Rhymes".) We'll be adding more content to these panels over time.
If your query is a single word or a popular multi-word phrase, the definition for the query itself is shown at the top of the page. If your query is not a single word but the system is very confident that it exactly matches the definition of a word, then that word's definition is shown (e.g., the definition of pandemic is shown for widespread epidemic.)