My question is about ways to find out about, or remind oneself of, related concepts. Say I'm writing an article and I'm stuck finding the right expression.

  • I want to say that the author is confused about a concept, but I don't want to use the word "confused", for stylistic, syntactical or any other reasons. I would like to find other words like "muddle", "is not clear about", or "does not distinguish".
  • I want to say that I reject an objection to a given view. I would like to find other expressions like "riposte", "rejoinder", but also sentence templates such as "Contra N.N., I hold that"
  • What are different ways to express the concept opposition? "In contrast", "Whereas .., ...", "On the other hand".
  • What are different ways to make an enumeration of arguments? "First, ...; Second, ...", "For one thing, ...", "for another", ....

What I'm looking for is similar to a thesaurus, but many of these reference works (such as this one) only list expressions of roughly the same lexical category: "contrast" -- "comparison", but not "despite the similarities, ..." etc. "By contrast" is not even listed. Often what you need is just to be pointed in the right direction. Is there anything - a dictionary, thesaurus, list of schematic sentences, web site, ... - that fits my description?

  • Interesting! What you need is perhaps a compendium of set phrases and idioms, organised thematically. I don't know of such a thing, but if you can find someone capable of compiling one, i'd be in for fifty quid on a Kickstart! – Tom Anderson Sep 7 '11 at 16:51

I am not sure there is a thesaurus as complete as the one you are looking for.

I like Wordnik, which included lots of examples for each word proposed, as well as related words (and not just synonyms or antonyms).
But the results remain close to the ones found with www.thesaurus.com (thesaurus that you mention in your question).

  • The visual thesaurus is also very interesting, but not free. visualthesaurus.com/landing/… – VonC Aug 18 '10 at 11:51
  • Thanks, both are interesting, though as you say they don't really belong to a different category than a conventional thesaurus, as far as I can see. – loevborg Aug 20 '10 at 11:04

This reference source is a thesaurus, dictionary, encyclopedia, and a specialist reference all at the same place, so it might help.

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