Fun With Visual Thesaurus

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve always hated using a thesaurus. I always felt disappointed when I looked up a word. The synonyms never seemed that synonymous, and therefore not that useful.
Visual Thesaurus changed that for me. It makes finding alternative words fun and often leads me to exploring relationships between related words. For example, here’s what you get if you look up “dragonfly.”

Looking up “dragonfly” on visual thesaurus

Visual Thesaurus definitions for "dragonfly"
Here’s what you get when you search “dragonfly” on Visual Thesaurus

First, you get some pretty awesome synonyms: snake doctor, snake feeder, skeeter hawk, and devil’s darning needle.
That will lead you to Googling, and you’ll find that people once believed that dragonflies could sew up a person’s lips; thus, they were called devil’s darning needles, or darners.*
You’ll also discover the belief that dragonflies catch insects for snakes and help raise baby snakes. Awesome! Thus, dragonflies are also called snake doctors or snake feeders.
Visual Thesaurus will also lead you to some related words, like mosquito hawk, which some people think are dragonflies but which are actually “crane flies.” Crane flies, of course, are in the order Diptera, whereas dragonflies are in the order Odonata, infraorder Anisoptera.

Nighthawk, nightbird, and bullbat, oh my!

Then, mosquito hawk will lead you to nighthawk, which takes you to night owl, nightbird, and bullbat.
A night owl, of course, is someone who likes to be active at night.
But Google a bit, and you’ll find that nighthawk and bullbat are common names for Chordeiles minor**, little brown birds in the familiy Nightjar. They are mainly nocturnal, lay their eggs on flat surfaces rather than nests, and are sometimes called goatsuckers because of the mistaken belief that they suck milk from goats OMG.
So you see how fun, random, and absorbing Visual Thesaurus can be. Best of all, if you’re a copyeditor or copywriter, it might help you find the right word next time you’re trying to fix a funky sentence.


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