A Visual Thesaurus
By Jonathan Dube
If you're the type of person who's addicted to the Oxford English Dictionary and William Safire's "On Language" column, then you're going to love the Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus.
And even if you're not, this site is worth checking out. The Visual Thesaurus works similiarly to, a search engine that presents results as three-dimensional maps, as Sree described Tuesday.
Imagine all the words in the English language, floating in a three-dimensional universe.
Enter a word and it becomes the center of the universe -- with related words orbiting it. The closer in meaning, the closer the orbit. As you click on the related words, you travel through the universe, tunneling closer to new, more relevant words.
You are following a thread of meanings, creating, as the site says, "a spatial map of linguistic associations."
You can zoom in or out on your verbal universe, or focus on any part of speech, such as nouns or verbs.
The Visual Thesaurus was built using Thinkmap, a data-animation technology developed by Plumb Design. It's based on the WordNet database, a publicly available resource developed by the Cognitive Science Laboratory at Princeton University, which contains over 50,000 words and 40,000 phrases.
If you're on deadline and need to find a synonym quickly, you'll still likley have better luck with sites like
But if you have the time, or the curiousity, to explore, the Visual Thesaurus might take you down a new path and do a better job of finding just the word you need. And it might even help you gain a better understanding of the ways words relate to one another.
And even if it doesn't, it's a lot of fun to play around with.
Thinkmap. Visualize Complex Information.