Can you recommend some searchable resource that maps given expression onto idioms meaning that thing?

There are quite a few dictionaries that contain a list of idioms containing a given word which is useful if you encounter the given idiom and want to know its meaning. If I search for "horse", I will get "get on a high horse", "horse sense" or "dark horse" or "a horse of different color".

What I need is a writer's resource, a thesaurus, where I know the basic meaning and I can give its straight, direct wording, but the situation really calls upon using some smart idiom in that place. Say, I want to know idioms for "different", and get "a horse of different color", "another cup of tea" and "a whole new ball game".

  • 1
    There are lots of helpful links in the answer to this ELU question: What are your favorite English language tools? Probably my favorite site that gives lots of context for words/idioms/phrases is wordnik.com
    – JLG
    Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 12:57
  • @JLG It seems like the "reverse dictionary" section of Wordnik does pretty much what I want, listing entries that use current entry in their definitions. Still, Wordnik isn't very rich in idioms, and too common expressions appear in countless definitions only barely relevant.
    – SF.
    Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 22:39

2 Answers 2


You might try this spot, SF: http://www.visualthesaurus.com/app/view

and Rodale's "Synonym Finder" (a paper book; no online presence that I know of) is also quite good for more extensive idiomatic phrases.

  • 2
    The visual thesaurus seems to only offer word synonyms and phrasal verbs, no idiomatic phrases.
    – SF.
    Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 22:28

The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms is the only resource that I know of. It has more than 6000 entries, accompanied by etymological information related to the idiom. It has a searchable app on the AppStore for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users. It also comes in hard copy book format if you don't own these devices.

Both of these options are a bit pricy. But the app version, if you own an iOS device is I think worth the price.

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  • 2
    What the screenshot shows seems exactly like the common idiom lists I mentioned, bundling idioms by a common word occurring inside them, and not by their meaning - multiple idioms of various unrelated meanings containing the word "above" instead of giving a list of idioms with a common meaning ("above yourself", "stuck up", "nose up in the air")
    – SF.
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 11:59

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