or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, May 02, 2005


Once upon a time, not all that long ago, maybe twenty-five years ago, someone published a reverse spelling dictionary. The idea was genius: not needing definitions and pronunciations and other frippery, the dictionary merely listed words according to the way they were spelled backwards. And what use is such a thing? Well, just say you're thinking about the words "catastrophe" and "apostrophe", as I was when washing the dishes the other day, and you suddenly want to know all the words that ended in "-trophe". With a regular dictionary, there's no way to find out, but with a reverse spelling dictionary, you simply look up "ehport", and there they are. (Pre-Internet, this was a very big deal for word geeks such as myself.)

Of course, such a thing is possible using Boolean searching in some regular online dictionaries: simply type "*trophe" into the search field. (That first character is an asterisk, and it denotes "any number of any characters".) I was hoping for a very simple, literal reverse spelling dictionary; someone takes an uncopyrighted word-hoard, writes a simple macro to reverse all the words, and then alphabetizes the resulting list. I'm surprised it hasn't been done.

However, after a solid half-hour of Googling, I did find a reasonable substitute for a proper reverse spelling dictionary. It's not as thorough as I would like it to be: "*trophe" gave a list of only eight words, missing one I know of for certain, "diastrophe", and probably a few others besides. But for those who can accept its limitations (and those are few, considering that it's free), it's called MoreWords.com: check it out. (A particular word's listing will also give plenty of information you didn't know you needed: definitions, all anagrams of the word, words you can make by adding one letter and anagramming, and anagrams that can be made from subsets of letters in the word, for starters.)


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