[Lexicog] Reverse Dictionary
dr_john_roberts at SIL.ORG
Fri Jan 20 16:28:45 UTC 2006
It depends on what you mean by "reverse dictionary". Many different kinds of
dictionary are called "reverse dictionaries".
For example bilingual language dictionaries, e.g. English-Swahili, are
sometimes called reverse dictionaries.
The index in bilingual dictionaries can also be called a reverse dictionary.
Then there are the bilingual dictionaries that go from a technical language
to an everyday language. They are often called reverse dictionaries. I give
some examples next.
The Medical Word Finder: A Reverse Medical Dictionary Betty Hamilton
(Editor), Barbara Guidos (Editor) (1987)
[The text supplements a regular medical dictionary by translating
layperson's language into medical terms. Entries appear here alphabetically
by single words and extended phrases. The dictionary also contains a list of
commonly used prefixes and suffixes of medical etymology.]
Music Abbreviations: A Reverse Dictionary Donald L. Hixon (2005)
[This volume is a dictionary and reverse dictionary of music abbreviations,
acronyms, and initialisms for musical terms, monograph and serial titles,
academic degrees, and much more. While the focus of the dictionary is on
classical music terms, entries representing jazz and folk music have also
been included. The first half of the volume is arranged alphabetically by
the abbreviation, while the second part is arranged alphabetically by the
full form of the entry, followed by the abbreviation. This resource is
intended to eliminate much of the need to cull definitions from dozens of
separate music and general dictionaries and encyclopedias.]
Reverse Symbolism Dictionary: Symbols Listed by Subject Steven Olderr
[This is a companion to the hugely successful Symbolism: A Comprehensive
Dictionary. The earlier dictionary was arranged by symbol and told what the
meanings were. The present work goes the other way (but it is not simply a
refiguring of the data). It presents ideas, situations or objects (ancient
to modern), and gives the appropriate symbols (allusions, associations,
attributes, or emblems). Some examples: one of the symbols for "hell" is
descending stairs; an attribute of Saint Benedict is a raven; joy after
sorrow is symbolized by the gemstone, amber. Literary, artistic, religious,
heraldic, numerological, folkloric, occult, psychological, and biblical
usages are included.]
Then there are reverse alphabet dictionaries:
Reverse English Dictionary: Based on Phonological and Morphological
[Rather than presenting a reverse list of words in endless sequence and
strictly alphabetical order, this English dictionary considers the structure
and formation of words, grouping them together in sections and subdivisions.
This way of looking at words from behind and comparing similar word endings
reveals new and unaccustomed aspects of the structure of words and their
formation, illustrating the enormous variety of the English language.]
- REVERSE ALPHABET DICTIONARY
"It alphabetizes words beginning with the last letter."
Then there are the "Sounds like dictionaries". Here you go from the phonetic
sounds of a word to its written form.
Not strictly a reverse dictionary, but its regular search allows several
options such as "sounds like" and broad matching. Its "advanced search"
allows for inputting of phrases, and also features hyperlinked synonyms.
- CMU PRONOUNCING DICTIONARY
Lets you look up words or a sentence, or a representation of the
pronunciation of a word you're not sure how to spell.
Finally, there are what are probably best understood as reverse dictionaries
and these are "concept dictionaries". Typically concepts or meanings are
listed alphabetically and words are given in each entry that relate to that
concept. I give some examples of printed dictionaries of this type and also
those available on the internet.
Reverse Dictionary (1983) Theodore M. Bernstein (Editor), Jane Wagner
In this unusual dictionary, it is the meanings that are arranged
alphabetically, to lead you to all those words you can't quite remember at
Reader's Digest (1989) Reverse Dictionary
Reader's Digest (1997) Illustrated Reverse Dictionary
Oxford Reverse Dictionary (2002)
Has entries of key concept words with words in the entry related to that
Longman Language Activator (1993)
is like this too
Is the same idea. Describe a concept and the dictionary will find the
appropriate word for that concept.
- ONE LOOK REVERSE DICTIONARY
"...lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases
related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a
question, or even just a single word."
- THE WORDTREE REVERSE DICTIONARY SERVICE
"It directs you from a mere idea to its precise wording!"
- ULTRA LINGUA'S WEB DICTIONARY
This tool includes reverse dictionary functionality with its regular
- LEXICAL FREENET
Also not strictly a reverse dictionary, but this tool lets you type in
concepts or ideas and then it returns related words and synonyms.
There are probably other kinds of dictionaries that are also called a
"reverse dictionary", but I think you get the idea of the possibilities.
I hope this is helpful to you.
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