Dictionary Search Engine Finds Meaning for Over 2 Million Items

Oh boy! More reference! More dictionaries! Recently I got an e-mail about a new site that crawls Web sites for meanings. MetaGlossary ( ), is in beta and is offering definitions for over two million words, phrases, acronyms, etc.

The front page is basic with just a search box (there’s also an offer to get a Firefox plugin.) I did a search for wiki. MetaGlossary dished up definitions harvested from Wikibooks and several other sites. The results contain the excerpt of the page that is the definition (and for the most part these excerpts were pretty good) as well as the URL of the page itself. At the top of the page you’ll also see major keywords and related terms that you can look up. Many of the words in the excerpts are underlined as well; you can click them and get more definitions. This makes the excerpts a little hard to read; I’d like to be able to turn that off.

I did another search for a more ambiguous search: life. I actually got four sets of results. Three of the sets were about life definition as a state (one set seemed more metaphysical than the other two) while the fourth set was about musical albums from three different artists. Each of the sets had a pointer to get more definitions from that particular set. With the more ambiguous words, the definitions don’t sort themselves as neatly, and you can’t combine words to narrow down your search (for example, a search for life biology got no results.)

You can also do a certain amount of general reference work with the site as well. I did a search for Eudora Welty and got two results, one from Wikipedia and one from Princeton. A search for Puerto Rico didn’t do quite as well; I got two sets of results. The first one was pretty good, but the second one seemed to consist of mostly harvested addresses.

For slang, MetaGlossary didn’t do very good. I searched for boost and didn’t find any relevant slang results (the slang I was looking for was “to steal or shoplift”.) MetaGlossary did find the slang feldercarb (not safe for work). Slang will take some experimenting.

Overall I was impressed, though, and really liked the excerpts.

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