On Not Remembering/Knowing the Right Words: The Reverse Dictionary under Review

Dušan Gabrovšek


The paper focuses on the onomasiological situation in monolingual dictionary consultation: When the reference need is not the typical one of looking up the meaning of an unfamiliar word or sense, but one of knowing what you want to say/write but cannot think of or do not know the right word(s). There are several English-language reference sources available that attempt to meet this kind of reference need, notably several “reverse” dictionaries, the Longman Lexicon, the Language Activator, the Superthesaurus, and a few more, including one online reference. Such sources are typically hybrid works, in the sense that they try to provide several kinds of lexical information that we normally expect to find selectively in different sources (general dictionaries, thesauruses, dictionaries of quotations, etc.). The work analyzed in some detail is the American Flip Dictionary (Kipfer 2000), designed “for when you know what you want to say but can’t think of the word” (cover subtitle). User perspective in particular is highlighted.


reverse dictionary; onomasiology; user perspective; concept

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4312/elope.2.1-2.25-34


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Copyright (c) 2005 Dušan Gabrovšek

Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts 
(Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani)

Print ISSN: 1581-8918
Online ISSN: 2386-0316