Tuesday, June 2, 2009

FOR WRITERS: My Favorite Link

I’d thought I’d share my favorite link that I use while writing. I pull it up before I even open my manuscript:


It’s free, although usually when I first pull it up a pop-up ad will appear. But after I close it I don’t get any more of them on my subsequent searches.

The main reason I use it is because of the historical aspect of my books. At the bottom of the definition it gives a word origin date. If I use a word that strikes me as possibly too modern, I look up the definition for the origin date. Now, obviously, I can’t do this with every word I write or I’d never get a book finished, but if something strikes me, I’ll look it up. Usually it’s the longer words. For example, I wanted to use ‘paradox’ but that sounded like it might be a more modern concept. But apparently the word originated in 1530 (although its meaning has changed since the word was first used). Séance is a word I looked up for Enchanting the Beast. It originated in 1795, which is okay for that Victorian series, but it’s not a word I could use with my new Georgian series.

I also like that the site has other options for a thesaurus and reference. I do a quick search here, but if I’m looking for just the right word, I’ll refer to my print thesaurus, which has many more options. The reference, though, comes in handy. For example, I wanted to make sure I was spelling ‘geas’ correctly (and even now my spell check underlines it). But when I looked it up in the dictionary, it came back that no such word exists. Now, I’m aware it’s a fantasy term, and I know it exists, so I hit the reference button. Sure enough, it pulled up ‘geis’, which apparently is another spelling I wasn’t familiar with, but scroll down and sure enough it talks about a ‘geas’.

In my current WIP, I wanted to use ‘black diamonds’ as a comparison to my hero’s eyes. But alas, the term did not originate until 1910 (probably because we didn’t have the technology to create them until then). So, I will have to come up with some other comparison.

I use it as a quick reference for hundreds of other reasons and I hope you’ll find it handy as well.


  1. I use my Mac's onboard dictionary (Oxford American) for most things (it has etymologies and dates), but when I want to get really specific info, I go to


    for all the reasons you mention. It uses Weekley's "An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English," Klein's "A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language," "Oxford English Dictionary" (second edition), "Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology," Holthauzen's "Etymologisches Wörterbuch der Englischen Sprache," Ayto's "20th Century Words," and Chapman's "Dictionary of American Slang." And more.


    Nice to discover another word nerd. :-)

  2. Oooh, it does sound delicious, Lisa! I'll have to check it out! Thanks so much for adding a very helpful link.
    And nice to discover you too.:}