A big thanks to reader JS who pointed me toward WordNik, which looks like it’s been open a bit over a month. WordNik, at http://www.wordnik.com/, lets you search for words and get huge chunks of information about them. It’s in beta, which no longer shocks me.
From the front page, enter a word. Any word. I entered solder because it’s been a weird week. WordNik responded with lots of things, crammed onto one page.
There’s a set of definitions from various sources. There’s a few examples of the word used in a sentence. In this example there were a couple of real-time examples from Twitter. (Okay, Twitter is officially in everything. It’s the Huy Fong sriracha of the Internet.) You get synonyms and antonyms but also which words are used in the same context — invaluable for search engine queries.
You get images from Flickr. You get anagrams, if there are any. You get a chart of how frequently the word’s used. (I had a question about how that chart was being made; someone at WordNik pointed me toward http://blog.wordnik.com/carbonated-frequencies which answered my questions. The technique is not perfect but the charts are interesting.)
Though all this information is on the front page, you can also get to it via tabs across the top. In some cases you’ll get more iterations of data, like more example sentences or Twitter references.
As a writer I love all the reference information provided here, and from such a wide variety of sources! But as a searcher I really love the section that shows words that are used in the same context. When I have a query — especially a technical query or one focused on a very specific topic — this’ll be invaluable to help me narrow down my search results. Three cheers — go check out WordNik.