The best tool I’ve seen for this is the Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer. It was given to me as a gift many years ago and is often surprisingly helpful.It is similar to a thesaurus, but more open in that, like you suggest, it includes words you associate rather than just synonyms. However, as best I know it is paper only so doesn’t meet your request for an online or app-based tool.
I have Chambers Thesaurus (and the separate Chambers Dictionary) on my iPhone, which is surprisingly handy. I’ve probably used that thesaurus more often in the last couple of months than any thesaurus over the past ten years. Too lazy to go to the bookshelf to get Roget.
For mapp22’s example… Choosing the word “war”, Chambers Thesaurus first gives about 20 synonym nouns. Then it gives the related adjective “martial” (you have to click on this word to get a list of synonyms of this adjective, but then you get “warlike, military, army, soldierly, militant, heroic, brave, belligerent, combative, aggressive, hawkish” and “formal: pugnacious, bellicose”). After the related adjective for “war”, the entry goes on to give a couple of antonyms, a dozen or so verbs, related phrases (“war cry”), examples of 30 or 40 types of war, and a similarly lengthy list of famous wars. Clicking on any individual word takes you to the entry for that word. And there is an X-ref button as well, if you want to look up the word “war” in Chambers Dictionary or WordWeb (if installed), or online on Wikipedia, Google and so forth
It’s not particularly relevant to the orignal question, but if you are interested in French, Druide’s application Antidote is excellent (again, i have the iPhone version), linking to all sorts of different groups of related words. I would love to see that in English.
Edited to add: It has occurred to me that the original poster was asking really for a tool to generate related concepts rather than actual synonyms. But all you have to do for this is look up the first such concept that comes to mind (for example, “gruesome” or “grisly”) in a thesaurus, and then you have a list of suitable words.
Thanks for the numerous contributions. This is a lovely community here.
PJS’s suggestions MasterWriter and ThoughtOffice seem to be what I’m looking for; unfortunately these apps are overpriced. The free Nisus Thesaurus is just a thesaurus.
Thanks, nom, I was able find an electronic version of the Flip Dictionary. Unfortunately it’s primarily a resource for finding synonyms and then some related words. Likewise, Roget’s Thesaurus doesn’t fit my purpose, at least the .pdf version that was linked here doesn’t; it just gives synonyms and related words.
I have downloaded the Chambers apps but, again, they don’t fit my purpose although they are nice thesauri.
not wishing to be flippant… ah, who am i trying to kid…
rather than have some database editor or machine algorithm dictate the imagery in your writing, i really would recommend you put the effort into coming up with your own.
if you are worried you might not have a good enough vocabulary - something i doubt is true, btw - then be aware that the larger vocabulary is more likely to be found in reading novels and other prose than it is in the pages of a dictionary, thesaurus or mythical style dictionary. crosswords are also a good tool, but i tend to find they strengthen an existing vocab rather than make one larger.
seriously, the fun - and the skill - in writing comes from finding the right word to conjure up the right image. the fun in reading comes from seeing some new simile, metaphor or - yes - a well chosen adjective to express something in a way you,ve never seen before. imagine how dull it would be to read something written by an author using such a reference. the pages would be full of clichés and tired idioms. the sentences would flow with all the ingenuity of a robot arm in a volvo assembly line, and probably invoke the same amount of emotion in the reader.
my wish for you is that, if such a reference exists, you never find it. may your craft grow stronger and your prose inspire equal measures of envy and delight as a result.
Thanks for the honest words, Floss. I agree with the quoted text.
For the rest, I don’t think that such a dictionary would spoil the personal touch you advocate, on the contrary, I think it could open your mind to new ways of thinking.
Having it at your disposal doesn’t mean it would found your writing. You’d use it as a reference in moments where you are stuck on a phrase or needed inspiration otherwise but you’d remain the final judge on which words to choose.
my point is that while it may open your mind to ways of thinking that are new to you, it wouldn,t open your mind to ways of thinking that are new to the world or to the reader. by definition it can,t be a new way of thinking because it,s already been written down.
in fact, it,s already become such a common piece of thinking that the association has made it to a book of ,common-things-people-think-of-when-they-think-about-this-subject,.
reading such a reference might lead you to say the following…
I understood you in the first post. What I mean, reading “high as a kite” might open up your mind to think of your own metaphor. It gives you the building blocks to make something new. Copy, Transform, Combine = Innovation.
Does Lisette know you’ve been playing with other cats on the internet?
As far as I can tell from previous postings and her (his?) profile, Floss is actually in the book business, so to speak. I’d take his (her?) terseness as a symptom of busyness and a general negative outlook on life rather than anything personal. “Liking” is unlikely to come into it for that one.
Don’t worry about it. Write whatever way works for you, and use whatever resources you can. Have you tried using an idiom dictionary? The Free Dictionary (online tool) has an idiom section, which may add something extra to your brainstorming on words.
Also I suspect from previous postings, that I need not send any work his / her (its?) way. But that’s my loss I guess?
[size=150]its?[/size] are you for real!!? Cats aren’t its? If Floss sees that you’ve referred to him/her as an ITS?!!, he or she will kill you. Do you know how we kill? We sink our front claws into the flesh of the cheeks and then using the claws of our hind paws, we kill by evisceration. Cats do deign…occasionally, to accept extremely grovelling apologies… very…very…occasionally.