Children's, Intermediate and Advanced Online English Dictionary & Thesaurus

Category: Wordsmyth features


Building chunks of language with Word Combinations

Wordsmyth’s Word Combinations, technically known as “collocations,” provide what is almost like a thesaurus in another dimension. You will find them in most entries in the Advanced Dictionary. Instead of listing synonyms, that is, words you might use instead of the word you are using, Word Combinations provide words to use with the word you are using. In other words, they help you start building a bigger chunk of a sentence.

Compare the thesaurus’s “similar words” for the verb “laugh”:

cackle, chortle, chuckle, giggle, guffaw, howl, snicker, snigger, tee-hee, titter…

…with the Word Combination adverbs for the verb “laugh”:

aloud, appreciatively, bitterly, derisively, good-naturedly, harshly, heartily, hysterically, loud, loudly, maniacally, nervously, outright, raucously, ruefully, scornfully, softly, uncontrollably, uneasily, uproariously 


The similar words allow you to choose from among words for more specific kinds of laugh: from a quiet titter to a hearty guffaw. The Word Combinations allow you to choose from among adverbs that writers frequently use to modify the verb “laugh.” “Ashley laughed uneasily at the cruel joke,” you might write. Or, “Ashley laughed good-naturedly when her error was pointed out.” (Ashley’s a likable person, evidently.)


Word Combinations are the most frequent companions of the headword in published writing and broadcast speech. Thus, they represent the many ways in which the headword-concept is typically talked about and the words typically used to talk about them.

In the entries, word combinations are organized by part of speech combination. Take, for example, the word “election.” The word combinations for the noun “election” fall into four kinds:

adjective + (n.) election

verb + (n.) election 

(n.) election + verb   

noun + (n.) election

These formulas show you the kind of word (part of speech) and the position (before or after “election”) in which it appears in the corpus of texts. Notice that “election” has some verbs that appear before it and some that appear after it. Here are the full word combinations entries, with some comments in red:


adjective + (n.)election     coming, competitive, congressional, contested, democratic, direct, disputed, fair, federal, forthcoming, fraudulent, free, general, gubernatorial, judicial, legislative, local, mayoral, mid-term, multi-party, multiracial, municipal, nationwide, nonpartisan, off-year, parliamentary, periodic, presidential, primary, provincial, scheduled, statewide, transitional, upcoming


verb + (n.)election     boycott, cancel, certify, contest, delay, disrupt, influence, hold, monitor, oversee, overturn, postpone, precede, rig, schedule, steal, supervise  (These verbs that frequently have the word “election” as their object will give you a glimpse at all the things we can do to an election. )


(n.)election + verb      loom, near
(Which of these two verbs would you choose to talk about a coming election? It really depends how you feel about it.)


noun + (n.)election   ballot, boycott, candidate, eve, fall, financing, landslide, legitimacy, midterm, month, outcome, poll, primary, recall, registration, round, run-up, runoff, turnout, vote, voting


If you have read through these words, you may have noticed that some make sense when placed immediately before or after the headword “election”: “a fair election,” “postponed the election,” and “a fall [i.e., autumn] election.” True, you have to insert an article, “the” between “postpone” and “election,” but generally these are recognizable phrases that make sense.


Others, especially in the noun+noun category, don’t seem like a chunk of a sentence: “legitimacy election” and “voting election,” for example. Often a preposition will need to be inserted between the words: “the legitimacy of the election,” “voting in this election” are some possible ways the word combinations will work in these cases.
If you don’t know how to fit the two words together, a Google search on the two words will often return a number of similar examples of how they do.


You can try this little exercise to get a feel for how to fill out a word combination:


Complete these common noun + noun word combinations with the correct prepositions and articles.

1. the eve   ____    ____   election
2. the outcome  ____    ____   election
3. the turnout   ____    ____   election


 Word Combinations is a subscription feature, but you can try it by signing up for a 15-day free Trial Subscription, no strings attached. (There is a Trial Subscription button on most pages of the Wordsmyth website.) We also include Word Combinations with many Academic Vocabulary of the Day posts.


Read more about collocations here.


Wordsmyth offers free trial subscriptions

The big blue button on our dictionary pages is hard to miss. If you’re a registered user, you can simply click on the button and start enjoying access to subscription benefits for 15 days with no obligation:

  • Unlimited saving of quizzes and glossaries, with the ability to enter up to 50 words in an activity.
  • Word Parts for vocabulary building: thousands of dictionary entries include information about the prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots that form the word you’ve looked up. Easily explore other words containing the same root or affix.
  • Word Combinations (also known as “collocations”) for writing support using the word you’ve looked up. Construct idiomatic, error-free, and powerful sentences.
  • Spanish support. Translations of headwords and example sentences.
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When your 15 days are up, you can choose to continue your subscription for a year ($9.95). Otherwise, you will automatically be unsubscribed, with no action necessary on your part.

Experience subscription benefits for 15 days and let us know what you think on our facebook page or by emailing us your feedback from the link at the bottom of our web site pages.



Wordsmyth’s new Word Parts database

The importance of learning Word Parts
Studying word parts (roots and affixes) equips us to do the following:

  • Identify the meaningful elements that make up words.
  • Learn the characteristics of roots and of affixes: origin, meaning, grammatical function.
  • Guess (or recall) the meaning of unfamiliar words from the clues given by word parts.
  • Recognize the relationship among words that share a common root or affix.
  • Recognize and use patterns of word change (e.g., cept, -ceive).
  • Improve spelling by gaining awareness of the internal logic of words.
  • Increase vocabulary, cultivate morphological awareness–and enjoy the English language.
  • Fulfill Common Core (CCSS) ELA Literacy standards.

Three views of the Word Parts data

1) Dictionary entries:
More than 8000 Wordsmyth dictionary entries now display information about the word parts that make up the headword. In the new Word Parts section of the entry, the headword is broken down into its roots and affixes.

introvert wpEach significant word part is identified and its origin, type, and meaning provided. The user can also here view a list of other example words containing the word part, and jump to those words’ dictionary entries to explore further. “More about this word part” notes explain in more detail how particular affixes combine with bases to form words.

abstain wp

2) A-Z Word Parts Page:
In addition to the dictionary entry Word Parts feature, where the composition of a word can be studied in the context of looking up a word, the user can search, sort, and browse more than 600 roots and affixes at the A-Z Word Parts page (under Search Tools menu).

Picture 3

3) Search Filters:
Finally, for a view of all the words that have word parts information, the Search Filter page (under the Search Tools menu) will display them in an alphabetical browsable format. Simply select “word parts information.”

Word Parts Data in Word Explorer Children’s Dictionary

Word Explorer Children’s Dictionary users have these same three modes of access to roots and affixes information, but with the example words limited to the headwords in the Children’s Dictionary. To maximize flexibility, there are links to the complete Word Parts Database from any point in the Children’s Word Parts data. In the case of roots and affixes that have no example words in the Children’s Dictionary, the word part and information about it can still be found in the Children’s Dictionary A-Z Word Parts look up. 

For a general introduction to the terms and concepts used in our Word Parts database, see this downloadable pdf


About the Word(s) of the Day

Posted in Vocabulary, Wordsmyth features by admin

Every weekday we feature two words: Word of the Day and Academic Vocabulary of the Day. The rationale and target audience for each is different.

Academic Vocabulary of the Day is aimed at intermediate to advanced English language learners and middle and high school native speakers who need exposure to Tier 2 academic vocabulary words.

The words are selected from the 2000 most frequent general academic vocabulary words in American English. These 2000 words come from Mark Davies’ analysis of published academic texts in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. This academic vocabulary list is comparable to Coxhead’s Academic Word List (AWL), but is based on 120 million words of academic texts in the 425 million word corpus. Words are considered to be general academic vocabulary if they fulfill these criteria:

    • They appear at least 50% more frequently in academic texts than in non-academic texts.

    • Across disciplines, they appear more frequently than in non-academic texts. In other words, they are words important in all academic domains, rather than specialized, domain-specific technical terms.

    • Finally, they are among the 2000 most frequent of these general academic terms–the core.

Because the context in which the Academic Vocabulary Word of the Day will be most useful is academic writing, we also highlight the sense or senses of these words that are most frequently used in academic discourse. For example, the verb “conduct” has an important meaning of “leading an orchestra,” and a specialized meaning in the study of electricity, yet in the context of general academic vocabulary, the most important meaning is “to carry out or lead,” as in “conduct a study/investigation/seminar.”

The Academic Vocabulary of the Day words belong to the Tier 2 words which have been identified as of especial importance in the Common Core State Standards.

Word of the Day

Word of the Day covers less frequent, more advanced Tier 2 words, useful for SAT study and for acquiring a wider and deeper knowledge of English words. The Word of the Day is drawn from levels 3 to 5 (grades 7-12+) of the Wordsmyth Vocabulary Index (WVI), a forthcoming resource covering vocabulary words for K-12+ in five levels. WOTD is often accompanied by images, quotations from literature, or other aids to word learning, such as Greek and Latin roots and endings.


Wordsmyth offers a free school subscription for 2013-14 school year


Wordsmyth loves teachers. Teachers make up a significant portion of our user base, and developing literacy and vocabulary tools and resources that serve the needs of classrooms motivates much of what Wordsmyth is planning for the future.

 Earlier this year, we introduced a paid subscription option for individual users who want the benefit of premium features. A paid educational group subscription is in the pipeline, but to allow teachers and their students to try the premium subscription features, we are offering a free educational group subscription for the 2013-14 school year. Members of a subscribed school will have access to an ad-free site with a dedicated school URL, and other premium features such as unlimited saving and sharing of activities, use of up to 50 words in activities, Spanish support, and more.

In addition, subscribed schools will also have free use of new content and tools that will become available in the next few months: the extensive Wordsmyth Word Parts (roots and affixes) reference integrated with dictionary entries, and powerful search filters that allow users to perform focused dictionary searches to more easily generate subsets of the dictionary for specific purposes.

Enrollment in the free educational group subscription is a quick, easy process. Send us a request right now, or view a list of subscription features here.

There is also a FAQ about how the free school subscription works.