Wiktionary, Improved Profiles


Here’s a quick overview of some recent site updates. First, Wiktionary has been added as a definition source, giving Wordnik much better coverage of slang and pop cultural terms, among other things. We’ll be periodically re-importing Wiktionary data, so if you’d like to add material to Wordnik, editing the Wiktionary is now one way improve an awesome public resource and help Wordnik at the same time.

Profiles have also been updated. You can show your location, add a web address, and add links to other social services you’re on. Profiles also now optionally display your recent lookups.

Lastly, lists and other pages belonging to specific users now give a synopsis of that person’s contributions, something I personally missed and am psyched to have back. It’s fun to see who the real obsessives are, see when someone has passed a milestone, and to see who’s just getting rolling, so that we can welcome them into the fold.

Wordnik, Now With More Thesaurus

We’ve added some new features to the ‘related words’ page, reorganized it, and given it a promotion: Wordnik now sports a thesaurus.

By far the coolest of its new powers is the ability to compare two words on the same page, showing definitions or examples for each side-by-side. It’s like a comparison shopping site, but for words.

To use it click the ‘Compare’ button in the right-hand column of any thesaurus page. Check the boxes next to the two words you’d like to see next to each other, et voilà — as soon as you’ve made your second selection, an overlay shows their definitions side by side. You can also see side-by-side examples, and tweet the comparison. It’s a comparithesaurus.

The tweet option brings up another featurette: Comparisons, despite being page-within-a-page, Pale Fire-style affairs, have URLs of their own, like this. So they can be tweeted, or emailed, or IMed, or whatever. We’ll be adding more built-in share options soon.

This is, like all of Wordnik, an ongoing effort. The underlying data is being continually improved, and the features will be added to and refined. If you have suggestions or criticism, please let us know in the comments or through feedback@wordnik.com.

Built-in Translations

Wordnik is a primarily an English-language resource, but we just added a feature to help bridge the gap between English and the rest of the world. Every word page now sports a “translate to” option, which lets you view that word in any of 50 languages. Translation is “sticky,” meaning once you select a language, subsequent words will appear with the translation to that language until you turn translation off (it’s easily dismissible).

The translations come from Google’s amazing Language API, the only downside of which is that if we want to support other languages (Tamil, for instance), we need to wait for Google to support them first.

For those learning English, we hope that having translations alongside the context Wordnik provides will make for a richer learning environment than standalone translations. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments on how we can better implement translation, please email us, or let us know in the comments.

Spring News from Wordnik

in just-spring

Photo by, and licensed (CC BY-NC 2.0) from, cuellar.

Spring is always a time for new growth, and we’re certainly growing here at Wordnik!

Some new stuff we think you’d like:

  • We now have a beta mobile site at http://m.wordnik.com, optimized for small-screen devices.
  • We have more new (and better!) example sentences, from new sources, with more on the way soon.
  • Check out our improved word frequency charts!
  • The Wordnik Word of the Day is now available as a daily email. You can sign up for it now by logging in to Wordnik and editing your preferences.
  • Our new autoexpanding comment areas make it easier to write and edit comments of more than a few lines (for when you have a lot to say about a particular word).
  • You’ll find improved definition data from the GNU Webster’s 1913 dictionary, available both on the site and through the API.
  • Developers, check out the New API calls for retrieving examples, related words (synonyms, antonyms, and the like), phrases, and definitions by part of speech. Support for JSONP is now available as well.
  • Our corpus is now using mongodb under the hood, providing improved performance now, and interesting feature possibilities down the road.
  • And just for fun, follow us on Twitter and Facebook to play SECRET WORD WEDNESDAY! Guess the SECRET WORD OF THE DAY, and win Wordnik stickers!

Hungry for more? Email us at feedback@wordnik.com and let us know what you’d like to see!

Also — for all you developers out there, keep an eye out for details of Wordnik’s first developer contest! We’ll be making an announcement this Friday …

A random walk through Wordnik

Quick note: we’re moving the word-of-the-day and the list-of-the-day off the Wordnik blog. Soon they’ll be available via email (visit your profile page to sign up), but for now you can find them (and us!) on Facebook and Twitter. The word-of-the-day also has its own page.

Sometimes I am asked “How am I supposed to use Wordnik?” and I’m not sure what to answer. “However you want,” seems a little too passive, and “to find out how words work” seems too obvious. So I thought I’d write up a recent walk I took through Wordnik.

I started with Random Word, because, hey, who doesn’t like random? The first word I got was run-a-ball, which is some kind of cricket term. I know nothing about the game of cricket (and in fact have gone on record to speculate that cricket may be an elaborate hoax). I tagged it “cricket” anyway, despite my lack of knowledge of the game, because the sentences were pretty clear (and I can check it with Kumanan and Krishna, our resident Wordnik cricket aficionados, on Monday). After I tag something, I usually check to see what else has been tagged with the same tag, but again, I’m not that interested in cricket, so I decide to look at the cricket entry, instead.

The entry for cricket is pretty good (and the pictures are nicely divided between the bug and the game, and somebody’s adorable kitten and his toy cricket — the rule of Flickr images, given any fairly common word, you will find at least one picture of a cat at that word).

It’s in the related words that I had my first “ah-ha!” moment — one of the synonyms given for “cricket” is “stool.” Huh? I clicked through to the full Century Dictionary definitions set, and I’ll be damned, there it is:

A small, low stool; a footstool. A barrister is described [Autobiography of Roger North, p. 92] as “putting cases and mooting with the students that sat on and before the crickets.” This was circa 1680. N. and Q., 7th ser., IV. 224.

(“N. and Q.” is “Notes and Queries” and that quote is from an 1887 issue.) Then I got curious as to who Roger North was, and found out that he looks like this, and that his letters

give us a delightful picture of the private life of a man of high birth, great abilities, and extraordinary accomplishments, who, after a successful career at the Bar, retired in the prime of life to his country house, and devoted himself to improving his property and exercising an enlightening and elevating influence upon his tenantry and neighbours, while he continued to take a lively interest in all that was going on outside the immediate range of his daily occupations.

(I put his book on my “read someday” list, which list, at the rate it is growing, requires me to live to be 137 years old.)

Going back to Wordnik, I wondered (not being a connoisseur of stools) how many other stools there might be that I knew nothing about, so I clicked through to the main entry for stool and scrolled down to its related words — to find, among others, cutty-stool, whose second definition is:

A seat in old Scottish churches in which acknowledged female offenders against chastity were placed during three Sundays, and publicly rebuked by their minister.

And on that same page there was a Twitter account I didn’t know about — someone else besides DrSamuelJOHNSON is tweeting in the style of Samuel Johnson (if Samuel Johnson were a) alive and b) not inclined to think Twitter a snare and a diversion), 1755Dictionary. Interesting!

So that’s one way to use Wordnik — certainly not the only way, or the most efficient way! — but a fun one.

If you have taken a particularly interesting walk through Wordnik lately, feel free to tell us about it in the comments!