Improved functionality at Thesaurus.com makes finding your “lightning word” easier than ever

As Mark Twain famously said,

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

Thesaurus.com is now better equipped than ever to help you find that lightning word.

The other day I was struggling to think of the perfect word to use in a letter of recommendation for a former student. “Deftly” was close, but not quite right, so I headed to Thesaurus.com for inspiration. I was expecting to see something like this:

deftly old

Instead I was greeted with this:

deftly new1

What a welcome surprise! Here’s a quick summary of the new features:

  • Entries are separated on different tabs so you can focus on the meaning you intend.
  • You can sort by relevance (then alphabetically within a given level of relevance) so the most probable words are first.
  • You can highlight only words of a certain complexity or length or those that are common or informal.
  • The visually appealing column format makes skimming easier.

But “delicately” wasn’t the sense in which I meant “deftly,” so I checked the “cleverly” tab. I knew I wanted a short word, so I used that slider. My lightning word was now clear: “ably.”

deftly new2

To see what the rest of the options looked like, I also explored the “shrewdly” tab. This output is sorted alphabetically and is organized in a list, so it looks the most like the old Thesaurus.com format*, but it still has the new functionality of highlighting only the common words:

deftly new3

My one complaint is you can’t use multiple highlighting options at once (for example, you can’t highlight words that are simple, short, common, and informal).  Perhaps this will be addressed in future upgrades. I’m also curious about how complexity is measured. After testing a few words, I found some non-intuitive results with that option.

Overall, these changes are very welcome. The new Thesaurus.com is better than ever, so there’s no excuse to settle for a lightning-bug word when you can find the perfect bolt of inspiration instead.

*If you really miss it for some reason, you do still have the option to revert to the old version of the website.

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2 thoughts on “Improved functionality at Thesaurus.com makes finding your “lightning word” easier than ever

  1. Rachel

    I agree with your point of view regarding the far more aesthetically pleasing interface. However, as a translator who uses Thesaurus.com for professional purposes, the new display presents more problems than benefits; I am no longer able to quickly scan through the options for the right word while working under a tight time constraint. The big orange rectangles take up more space on the page, meaning users must scroll down in order to see all the synonyms offered, and the multiple columns with uneven spacing between them according to longer or shorter words take far more time to analyze than glancing at a black and white, Times New Roman, compact paragraph used to. For professional users, the new Thesaurus.com is a major drawback and the option to use the old Thesaurus has been taken off the page in favor of an “Old Thesaurus Feature” which displays the words in big orange rectangles in an uneven paragraph format. I wish the designers would put more thought into their user base and bring back the option to use the old Thesaurus.com, thereby offering the best of both worlds to casual and professional users.

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