Category: Wordsmyth Blog
How to s*rch the diction?ry using wild card symbols
Did you know that Wordsmyth’s dictionary search box permits the use of wild card symbols? ”?” and “*”: These unassuming symbols are surprisingly powerful, as they can represent any letter or string of letters in a word. Understanding how to use them will increase your ability to find words you can’t spell or don’t fully recall. Wild card symbols also allow you to find groups of words that contain a particular letter pattern.
The question mark
? stands for any single character (letter or number). For example, if you search for “cat??” you will find all five-letter headwords that begin with “cat”: “catch,” “cater,” “catty ” and “catty “. (“Catty ” is a unit of weight used in Southeast Asia.) Search for “???cat,” and you will find all six-letter words that end in “cat,” including “bobcat,” “fat cat” and “muscat” (a type of grape used to make wine). The query “c?a?t?” will return “coast” and “craft.” If you’re thinking this search mode sounds handy for solving crossword puzzles, you would be right. In fact, Wordsmyth has a Crossword Solver that tailors wild card searching for this specific purpose.
* stands for zero or more letters. For example, if you search for “cat*,” you will find all headwords that start with “cat,” including “catty,” “cater,” “catalog,” and “catabolism.” If you search for “*cat*,” you will find headwords that contain “cat” in the middle, such as “application” and “beef cattle.” Because an asterisk can also represent zero letters, all these searches would also turn up “cat” itself.
wild card search
Pictured left is a query for words that start with and contain the letter “q.” Amusing, yes, but wild cards searches do also have applications in an educational context. Using wild card symbols, you can find all the words that contain a particular Latin or Greek root. Try *cept* or *graph,* for example.
With a little cleverness, you can also find words that you are not sure how to spell, or that you only remember part of. For example, you might remember part of a word’s spelling, so you might enter “m*t*c*ond*ria” in the search box. You would find “mitochondria” because the first three asterisks match the letters”i,” “o,” “h,” respectively, while the fourth asterisk matches zero characters. There is no letter between the “d” and the “r” in “mitochondria.”
When your goal is to find words rather than word meanings, the wild card search is a useful tool. To really become adept at finding the words you need in Wordsmyth dictionary, you will also want to familiarize yourself with Wordsmyth’s Reverse Search, Browse, and Multi-Word Results, which will be covered in future posts. We’ll leave you with a challenge using wild card symbols: find the word in the Wordsmyth dictionary that has the most number of letters in alphabetical order. And, finally, let us know to what fiendishly clever ends you have put the dictionary wild card search.
Defining Words in WILD: Functional Definitions
Definitions for the Wordsmyth Illustrated Learner’s Dictionary (WILD) are written in what is called a “functional” style. Functional defining uses full sentences as opposed to the sentence fragments traditionally used in dictionaries and is a style that is well-suited to the needs of young readers and language learners.
Because many of the words in WILD are nouns, a large proportion of the definitions are simply of the form “An A is a B” — “A lion is a large, strong animal,” for example. However, many of the definitions in WILD are written in a format that is unique to functional defining; that is, they define by using the headword in a sentence beginning with “If” or “When” and describing in that sentence the communicative impact of the word.
Defining “cozy” and “gallop”
To define the word “cozy,” for example, we begin with the clause “When you feel cozy” and finish with the defining information: “you feel warm and comfortable and safe.” Similarly, to define the verb “gallop,” we begin with “When horses gallop” and end with the defining information: “they go at their fastest speed using their legs.”
Definition: When you feel cozy, you feel warm and comfortable and safe. When something is cozy, it makes you feel this way. Something that is cozy is often small, like a small room or bed, but it gives you a nice feeling.
Click to enlarge image.
Definition: When horses gallop, they go at their fastest speed using their legs.
Less is not always more in dictionary writing for kids
In defining words for young children in WILD, we have taken an attitude that does not generally characterize dictionary writing. While lexicographers typically aim for conciseness in defining, we don’t operate under the assumption in WILD that less is always more. In fact, we’ve taken the attitude that more is more, as long as what is contained in the definition field is simple and useful. We believe that even full-sentence, functional definitions can still be remarkably opaque and incomplete in describing meaning, and we want our users to understand the meaning of the headword described and even enjoy the experience of grasping it through reading. To this end, we very often go beyond the core defining sentence and add more information that we hope will make the meaning clear and make the experience of reading the definition both enlightening and entertaining.
New Feature: Your Look-up History
Nothing brings home to me just how much mileage I habitually rack up on the information highway like a glance at my browser history. Whether it’s showing me locations I visited “last week,” “yesterday,” or even earlier “today,” the amount and the variety of the terrain covered is impressive. Many of the URLs that pop up in my browser history I’d forgotten ever having visited. Sometimes forgetting is good: here at my work computer, for example, history shows that, a few days ago, what started as a purposeful search on Project Gutenberg for literary uses of an unusual word (“tardigrade”) was diverted by one author’s reference to “hoof-shaped shoes” worn by the precursors of policemen in fifteenth-century Florence. Curiosity must have gotten the better of me, for apparently I made seven stops related to hoof-shaped shoes before getting back on track. Most of the time, however, I wish I hadn’t forgotten where I’d been and had kept more bookmarks and notes. What fruitful trails have I abandoned–or spent precious time rediscovering?
A new feature in Wordsmyth, the dictionary look-up history, is designed to help you remember the paths you’ve taken through the dictionary-thesaurus and the words you’ve investigated for as long as you wish to. Your look-up history keeps track of which words you’ve looked up and when, and makes that information easily accessible to you whenever you visit Wordsmyth. Here’s how it works. When you view a dictionary entry, as shown below, the last few words you’ve looked up will be visible in a box in the top right of the entry (indicated by the blue arrow). When there are more than five words in your look-up history, this box will display a link, “See more,” (indicated by the lower red arrow), which will take you to the full look-up history page. This page is also accessible from the tab menu My Wordsmyth: Look-up History (See the upper red arrow).
Look-up history box in entry
On the Look-up history page each word you have looked up is listed in chronological order from newest to oldest. For each word, there is a complete record. n Moving from left to right across the columns, as shown in the image below, you will see 1) the word looked up, 2) the number of times the word was looked up on a given day (#), 3) the date on which it was looked up, 4) the first definition of the word and, in brackets, the number of definitions the word has, if more than one. Finally, 5) the Site column tells you which Wordsmyth site you used (Kids or Main), and, 6) if the Main site was used, the level of the dictionary you used (Beginners, Intermediate, or Advanced).
Look-up history page
View alphabetically or by date
To faciliate finding particular words you may have looked up, the look-up history will display alphabetically if you click on the small blue triangle tot he right of the “Word” column heading, and chronologically if you click on the triangle to the right of the “Date” column heading.
When your look-history is extensive, perhaps stretching over a number of pages, you can narrow down the words you see by using the drop down menu “Show words looked up” (a in the image above), choosing to see “all history,” “last 30 days”, last 7 days or 1 day, and clicking “find.” You may also enter a word or a date in the “Find a word or date” search box (b in the image above) and click on “Find” to view the page where a particular word or date appears.
The Look-up History is very alert! It will record not only words you look up using the general search box, but also synonyms, similars, and antonyms you click on, was well as Word Explorer words. However, you can clear your history by clicking on the blue [Clear] link (c). And you can hide the lookup history box in the Display options menu that appears on the entry page.
Introducing beta WILD, Wordsmyth’s Dictionary for New Readers!
Wordsmyth is for kids
The Wordsmyth Illustrated Learner’s Dictionary (WILD) is Wordsmyth’s newest and most exciting and interactive dictionary. WILD is geared toward children in Grades K to 3 as well as to young English Language Learners.The beta version of WILD is now available for exploration at kids.wordsmyth.net/wild/.
At the core of WILD is an abundantly illustrated dictionary that contains child-friendly, full-sentence definitions and example sentences for nearly 3,500 words. The dictionary can, of course, be used by looking up a word in the search box, but a child may also access and explore the dictionary entries through the three distinct visual environments Wordsmyth has created: the World, the Collections, and the Book. All the environments are linked with each other so that a user may at any time navigate from one to another.
WILD’s three visual environments
In the WILD World, children can explore items as they appear in natural and human-made environments. A child may choose to explore in Nature, seeing what plants and animals exist in a variety of surroundings, such as the seashore, the desert, or the forest; or he or she may explore in the City, looking at what objects and types of people can be found in different settings such as the school, the post office, or the grocery store. In any setting, there are opportunities to explore on different levels. Once in the seashore setting, for example, a child can navigate into the tide pool or into the ocean and see what creatures might exist there.
Once in the restaurant, a child can zoom in to look at the menu, or navigate into the kitchen and open the refrigerator! At any point, a user can see the objects in a setting with or without word labels and with or without Spanish translation. (Chinese and other language translations will follow in all three visual environments.) All word labels can be clicked on to access audio pronunciations as well as to link with a word’s dictionary entry. Once in the entry, one can easily navigate back to the same item in the World.
The WILD Collections allow children to explore words in categories, viewing artist renderings of hundreds of carefully selected and arranged items.
The Collections include a wide range of categories and subcategories, such as plants, parts of plants, things people do, things to read, things in fairy tales, animals, mammals, invertebrates, parts of the human body, actions of the body, foods, spices, materials for art, colors, and shapes. Included in the Collections is also a collection called Maps, which is where a child will gain access to an interactive map of the world. (WILD includes a full entry for every currently recognized nation.) Here too, a child can navigate to deeper and deeper levels and at the same time link at any point to audio pronunciations and dictionary entries.
In the WILD Book, concise versions of the dictionary entries are displayed almost as if on pages of a print dictionary, and clicking on any word will open up its full, expanded entry. The Book environment has been designed not only to look like a print dictionary, but to resemble a print dictionary in the way the pages can be turned, allowing a user to browse page by page, looking at illustrations and photographs, and reading definitions of words that catch his or her interest. In addition, the Book allows users the choice of viewing all the words of the dictionary or limiting the display to those words with images, words with a particular part of speech, or words that can be found in the World or Collections.
This post merely scratches the surface of what WILD has to offer, but we hope it conveys some of the excitement we feel at launching this new and vibrantly engaging educational resource. Future posts will further detail WILD’s unique features and ways that it can be used and enjoyed by children, parents, and teachers. Visit the Wordsmyth blog later this week if you need some help using the activities in WILD.
Wordsmyth’s Integrated Dictionary-Thesaurus (or Where’s the Thesaurus?)
“Where’s the thesaurus?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by users of our dictionary. Developed in the 1980s, the Wordsmyth Educational Dictionary-Thesaurus (WEDT) was the first online dictionary to have thesaurus information paired with individual definitions in a headword entry. What some users don’t seem to recognize right away is that synonyms, similar words, and antonyms are matched with each sense of a word and appear directly under each definition for a particular headword. A user doesn’t need to click anywhere to get the information and doesn’t need to leave the page in order to see it. In other words, the thesaurus is not a separate entity, but something built into the dictionary itself.
Occasionally when a user asks about the thesaurus, that person is looking at an entry that simply contains no synonyms, similar words, or antonyms. This can happen because the meaning of the particular word simply does not invite these concepts, or because related words do not meet our criteria to be included in the thesaurus. What would share the same meaning or be the opposite of a “pencil,” for example? Is “pen” an antonym for “pencil”? We don’t think so. (To find words like “pen” that relate to the concept of a pencil, however, one can use our Word Explorer. By clicking on the word “art” under Word Explorer toward the bottom of the page, one can find words such as “brush,” “crayon,” “charcoal,” “enamel,” “pen,” “ink,” and “paint.” Clicking on “tool” will also bring up words like “pen” and many other words denoting implements.)
Not finding thesaurus information for a particular word can also occur because our projects for adding synonyms, similars, and antonyms are still ongoing, and not every word that deserves this information has it yet. In particular, words that are derived from other words, such as “paradoxical” from “paradox,” may be empty of thesaurus information because past projects focused on root forms only. Despite our limitations, our built-in thesaurus has synonym coverage for 16,000 academic and high-frequency words, and the fact that thesaurus information is matched with individual senses of each of these words rather than just headwords, makes the Wordsmyth thesaurus a particularly useful resource for writers and anyone looking for a better word or a better understanding of a word’s meaning.