Wordnik offers an alternative to the more usual online dictionaries and thesaurus resources available. The site, is very new and still in beta, is built from existing sources and added to by contributors. So far it contains more than 1.7 million words.
When a user searches a word using Wordnik it displays word definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, antonyms as well as their etymology. From the FAQ page, it states “Wordnik is based on the principle that people learn words best by seeing them in context.” (Not new to teachers that one!) The site goes about this in a number of ways. It pulls examples from novels and Twitter,as well as definitions from several dictionaries. Users can contribute example sentences, audio pronunciations and images from Flickr. This seems a simple thing, and, for instsnce, how better to explain a colour? The “related words” feature, which shows not only synonyms and antonyms, but other words that are used in a similar context, words that often show up in the same kinds of sentences.
This all means that it offers opportunities for users to gain a very good idea about a word, with different ways to approach information about how and when a word is used. I think that ESL (non-English speaking students) would find this a more useful tool than the traditional dictionaries.
Other interesting features include the word statistics that show you how often a word had been used throughout history and the opportunity to observe almost live reflections in blog posts and tweets. Words are also presented in context of literary texts from various times, which allow you to see changes in style and use.
A post on the blog Inspirited Enterpriseoffers some information behind the development of Wordnik.
Wordnik is collaborative and the policy about words is an inclusive one and uses a broad definition about what is considered to be a “real word.”
If you’d like to contribute, you can sign up! Otherwise, it is worth a look and it will be interesting to see how it develops.
I am going to have more of a play to check out to see what ways it may be useful for the students at school.