I discovered a website this evening dedicated to one of my favorite subjects – words. Wordnik.com just might replace dictionary.com as my place to go when I want to look something up.
It has a dictionary, of course, with the usual features – definitions, examples of the word used in context from a variety of sources, word etymologies, and how to pronounce a word. And it has a word-of-the-day feature, including some very unusual words.
Today’s word is nekton: “Swimming organisms considered collectively and in contrast with those that float and those that live upon or in the bottom.” That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me until I saw an example which includes the word for the organisms that drift – plankton. Aha! Plankton drift, nekton swim.
Then I realized that I had never realized that plankton were not a specific species of sea creature. I’m afraid my mental image of plankton comes from a certain cartoon about a yellow sponge who wears pants. And I certainly had never realized that the word plankton is plural (the singular is plankter).
But there’s a lot more. There are images to go with each word, though some of these are only peripherally related to the word (the images for plankton include a SpongeBob Squarepants Christmas tree ornament and some seascapes). And there are lists of related words, which go far beyond the usual lists of synonyms and antonyms.
There are hypernyms (similar in meaning but more generic or abstract) and hyponyms (words that are more specific). For instance, for the word surgeon, some hypernyms are doctor and physician; some hyponyms are neurosurgeon and amputator.
One feature I especially like is the reverse dictionary, which contains words and phrases that use that word (the one you’re looking up) in the definition. How often have you tried to think of a word, and you can think of a number of words related to it, but not the right word? A reverse dictionary may not reveal the word you want, but there’s a good chance it will.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of my post, logolepsy is “a fascination or obsession with words.” Yes, I am probably a logolept. And now that I’ve written my post, I’m going to go enjoy a good (i.e. challenging) crossword puzzle.