There a group of sites that I frequently use as thesaurus alternatives. They’re all created by the same person and use the same broad structure.
They all take a word or a group of words and search databases for the best matches. Think about how this differs from an online thesaurus. A thesaurus has predetermined links between words that have a strong, medium, or weak similarity to it. People have determined these links and their rankings.
Instead, these sites use algorithms to pull their results from actual usage.
The results are sometimes standard thesaurus answers and sometimes they are wrong and sometimes they are opposites rather than synonyms, but sometimes the wrong results are just weird enough to make you think about what you’re really trying to say.
- Related Words is like the standard thesaurus. Enter a word and it will find alternatives, or, it may find opposites since the antonym is related to the original.
- Describing Words is one that is really useful. For Related Words the algorithm has to figure out whether the author meant two words to be connected. Finding describing words is simpler; it searches using the word that you enter and finds adjectives and describing words that authors have used in connection with the word you entered. Use it to help you describe a nose, or use it to build a side character that you haven’t fully defined yet. A “girl” could be “grubby teen-age” or “lovely blind” or “silent, unformed”.
- Reverse Dictionary is useful when you have the definition of a word but can’t come up with the word itself. Google might help, but this site is designed to do this, plus, it will come up with some weird alternatives that might get your mind expanding on things too.
- Urban Thesaurus is, I think, the most recent of these. If you’ve ever used the Urban Dictionary for definitions of terms that you heard on television or on the bus and wished there was a thesaurus for them, this site will help. Where else can you search “girl” and find “sista” or “priss”?
These don’t necessarily replace standard thesauruses but it’s good to have them bookmarked and check out their results. You’ll find less clichés and more interesting results.