Monday, April 11, 2011

SPOTLIGHT ON: The Tip of Your Tongue

No, I'm not talking about anatomy today.  But the search for that elusive word.  You know the one.  It starts with 'C' and your dad used it the other day...

A writer's toolbox is (primarily) their vocabulary.  And while it takes more to write a book than just knowing a lot of fancy words, the truth is, when you're refining a 90,000 word document, you better have more than one way to say the same thing. 

For straight word-for-word exchanges, my money is on the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus.  A own a (massive) copy that sits next to my computer every day.  This baby is my baby.  But sometimes I need more than a word exchange.  Sometimes I don't know the word I'm looking for.  Or it's a phrase.  Or I want to name a character based on an idea, or....

You know what I mean.  So today I'm linking to some online tools I've found useful in the hunt for words, names, phrases, concepts, etc. Enjoy!

Online Dictionary and Thesaurus - for all your standard practical needs.

Etymology Dictionary - a great place to find an old word by meaning, or to hunt for words you can creatively pilfer.

Poem Hunter - need a quote or lyrical phrase?  Check out this search engine!

Think Exist - helps find any kind of quote that might say what you wish you could.

Biblegateway - Whether you're Christian or not, a lot of writers use the bible for quotes.  The thing I love about this site is you can tell it which bible version to search, so you can use old or contemporary language.  Or find what you want to say in new language, then ask it to give you the same verse in an old version, etc.

LOOKING FOR: I've also heard tell of a writer's phrase thesaurus.  Apparently someone wrote down a dozen different ways to say all the things we all have to say all the time.  I'd love to read it if anyone knows where I can find it or who wrote it?  I'd love to add it to my list!

Your Turn: What's your favorite online tool?  Link us in the comments!


  1. There are some great resource links here! Thanks for sharing them, Aimee, I'm going to link to them and bookmark for the future.
    Judy (South Africa)

  2. Great list of links. I use Think Exist often. I will check out the rest, thanks.

  3. Can't wait to check out Poem Hunter. I'm not sure about the site you're looking for, but another great one is The Bookshelf Muse at - it has all kinds of really interesting thesauruses... thesauri? :)

  4. Thanks for these. One I've found helpful at times is - there are various kinds of searches you can do into different dictionaries, but you can also look for a phrase. Say you're writing something involving a dog and you want a phrase or a saying about dogs to put in your headline... you can just enter **dog** into the search terms and it will find you things like dog-eared, dog-eat-dog, etc.

    I find this useful because I can never think of a cliche when I want one. The rest of the time, they just come pouring out of my keyboard... ;-)

  5. This is a great collection of links. I don't have a go to resource except google, so I can't wait to go check these out. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I use quite frequently to stir up the ideas when I'm stuck on a word.

  7. Hiya Aimee, great post, as always :-)

    I'll be checking out the sites you've mentioned, but I think I may have what you were searching for... The Emotion Thesaurus and the Setting Thesaurus, by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman: (scroll down, they're a little on the right).

  8. I use some of these already but others I didn't know about so thanks for sharing. Your posts are always full of useful info.

  9. Oh, thanks for all the links! I seriously want to print out the whole The Bookshelf Muse's thesaurus, it seems like it might be handy for thwarting evil adverbs. :)