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I use WordWeb which is available online for vocabulary. But, is there any equivalent for getting the meaning and origin of phrases ?

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4 Answers 4

The online dictionary Wiktionary aims to be a dictionary of phrases as well. It is a project in progress, but it does have very many phrases already, e.g. kick the bucket or when Hell freezes over and about 60,000 others.

They also have an "appendix" that contains fewer phrases, if you'd like to just read through.

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1  
It is good to see that Wikitionary is maturing; I am still not used to using it though. –  Cerberus Dec 28 '10 at 2:52
    
Right, perhaps I made a mistake. [Or perhaps there were about 60000 when I added that link and later duplicates were removed and the categorisation system was improved — wikis change, and an order of magnitude difference is still not implausible.] Either way, thanks for the correction! –  ShreevatsaR Jul 23 '11 at 20:19

In haste: what kind of phrase are you thinking of? An example would help us to chart the routes. If you are looking for short or very common phrases, or expressions/idioms, those will be in on-line dictionaries. If the phrase is none of those (then what are they?), I doubt whether there is a database with phrases that also contains rephrasings. However, my advice would be to simply Google your phrases: you will usually be able to divine their meaning with the results, through context and the dictionary entries that you will often still get. Make sure that you enclose your phrase in double quotation marks.

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The only problem is that we need to Google It ! However, it is only Useful Way currently ! –  user2975 Dec 27 '10 at 11:37
    
A tip here: Remove the excess exclamation marks in your comment as they are unnecessary. "It" should be in lowercase. "However, it is the only useful way currently" would be a better rephrasing of the last part of your comment. –  Mamta D Jan 11 '11 at 8:49

You might try http://idioms.yourdictionary.com. I don't imagine it outperforms Wiktionary for breadth of content; it only boasts about 10,000 idioms on record in its print version. It also appears focused on American English only. However, you can browse the contents by proximity to a given search, which can prove useful if you're a writer or editor.

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thefreedictionary.com has definitions for idioms and phrases.

Ex:
wait a second
pull someone's leg
not to speak of

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