another post about finding the perfect word

Yes, I’m that picky kind of writer. It’s hard for me to spew stuff willy-nilly, though I’m trying to learn that talent. I stand in awe of people who churn out 5,000 words a day and then go back to consolidate and shape their raw words into a cohesive story.

You DO go back and shape those words, don’t you?

When I find the perfect words, with the appropriate nuance, with layers of meaning…well, it gives me a little tickle. I like a lot of flavor packed into each sentence.

So beyond the dictionary and the thesaurus, there’s this tool:

OneLook Reverse Dictionary.

“OneLook’s 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. Just type it into the box above and hit the “Find words” button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you’ll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first.”


Let’s try  “sad face”:

I get 100 words, including:

sorrow, gloom, doleful, long face, plaint, mournful, pensive, dejected, wan, sombre, weight, lined, heavy, suppress, tragedy, lugubrious, cloud, woebegone, mourning, buckle, vein, and mow, and many others…


Turns out a definition of mow is:

verb:  make a sad face and thrust out one’s lower lip (“Mop and mow”)  (MACMILLAN DICTIONARY ONLINE)

Dang. Words. Just when you think you know them.

Slippery little devils.

About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on February 7, 2012, in writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. The only reason I knew about that sense of “mow” was because Robertson Davies (a rich source of vocabulary words) wrote about one of his characters “mopping and mowing in the very Highest of High Anglican style.”

  2. Learned something(s) new. 🙂

  3. I always love a new dictionary link but that video clip tops the link this time. Ha!

  4. Deborah the Closet Monster

    You DO go back and shape those words, don’t you?
    It seems like I’m never going to stop getting to go back! The good thing about having written three books very fast was that I wrote three books very fast. The bad thing about having done so is that the editing time is proportional to how fast I wrote.

    I cannot wait to get to editing the fourth book I wrote. I wrote it slowly and leisurely, trying to write in such a way as to not want my future editing self hate the former writing self for flinging such crud her way. :p

  5. Wow, Satchelpooch. You are the best-read puppy dog I’ve ever met. ❤

  6. Isn’t this a handy little site, Judy and phil? Dana, I love the fact that the kid just…lies there. And the parents trundle merrily along. HAHAHAHA.

  7. Deborah,

    Ha. You end up paying your dues on the front end or the back end, don’t you? I guess sometimes the idea comes fully formed, and sometimes it needs to be teased out of our heads.

    Either way, it’s work. Joyous work, but work.

  8. I love the idea of a reverse dictionary!

  9. Yes. I like to backwards, too.

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