25 Years of RhymeZone and OneLook: What we're musing on lately

Our word-finding websites RhymeZone and OneLook both turned 25 this year—nearly the age of the Web itself!—and they're reaching an ever-growing audience of writers, poets, students, puzzle-makers, marketers, and scholars.  We're still building new features for these sites and others, all of them geared toward helping the world find words and ideas more effectively.  Recent advances in AI make this an exciting time to work in this area!    

Our last post to this blog was in 2016 (!), so we’re overdue for an update on what we’ve added since then. Here are 10 highlights from the past 5 years:

  1. OneLook Thesaurus: This site is a rewrite of the "reverse dictionary" tool that we made way back in 2003, and our take on what a thesaurus can be in the present day.  Its single-minded purpose is to inspire you with the right word, whatever your task, and however you're able to describe the word to us.  Like an old-time thesaurus it lets you find synonyms, but it also lets you find related words and ideas more effectively.   You can search for words with natural descriptions like "process that keeps plants green" or "expressing frustration or impatience with someone" or "types of hard wood".  It's gotten dramatically better at this in the past year, so give it a try if you haven't used it in awhile.  Read some reviews in AskReddit, MakeUseOf, LifeHacker, and Forbes.

    The thesaurus features are also integrated into RhymeZone in the "thesaurus" tab, where there are special treats for poets such as a "meter bar" that reveals the words that match the rhythm you need.

  2. Google Docs add-on:  If you use Google Docs regularly you might enjoy using our Docs add-on, which lets you highlight words or regions of your text and find synonyms and related words using the same technology described above.  It's branded as the "OneLook Thesaurus" add-on, but it includes many of our other services, too, such as rhymes, adjectives, and quotations. It's now the most popular thesaurus add-on for Google Docs.  Check out the reviews at EmergingEdTech, PCMag, and MakeUseOf!

  3. Advanced search for RhymeZone:  RhymeZone's user interface hasn't changed much since the 2000s, and the simple lists of words it returns are how many people seem to like it.  For those who want more detail, songwriters especially, we built an advanced search option. This column-oriented interface offers a much larger set of possible results and more ways to sift through them, with a deeper integration of meter, lyrics, definitions, and popularity data.

  4. Spruce:  Introduced in 2020, Spruce helps you find quotations, lyrics, jokes, and proverbs that are related to the topics in your writing.  These can strengthen your arguments or spark new, unexpected ideas.  What makes it more powerful than a keyword-based quotes search engine is that it tries to synthesize all the ideas in your text to come up with suggestions that are relevant to your specific themes. Spruce is available as a website, a Chrome extension, and as part of the Google Docs add-on mentioned above, where it's easier to select large blocks of text.  Click the question mark on the Spruce web page for more information on how it works.

  5. Rimar.io and OneLook Tesauro:  To break out of an English-only mentality, in 2017 we made a Spanish-language version of RhymeZone called Rimar.io, and more recently we started testing a Spanish version of OneLook Thesaurus with all the same features as the English version.  There's a lot of work to do to get Datamuse services working in other languages, but we’re up to the challenge.

  6. Mentions” on RhymeZone:  When you're trying to learn a new word, the Mentions tab on RhymeZone provides engaging examples of the word in a sentence.   It’s based on research we conducted last summer to determine which factors make usage examples compelling and memorable.  Our software combs through 30,000 public domain books and millions of lyrics, quotes, and Wikipedia articles to find good examples for every word, no matter how rare.

  7. Lyrics features:  RhymeZone's "Lyrics and poems" tab now includes rhymed verses sampled from 2 million songs and poems in English and Spanish, organized by genre and rhyme pair.  You can do conceptual searches, too, by searching for a whole line—for example, searching for “it won't stop raining” will find hundreds of different ways this thought has been expressed in song.

  8. Mobile app updates:  Our RhymeZone mobile apps for iOS and Android, both highly rated at 4.8 stars, give you a slimmed-down version of RhymeZone you can use without an Internet connection, with ad-free access to the website’s more expansive features when you’re back online.  Over the last few years we’ve expanded the built-in vocabulary of the app and made several design enhancements to both apps, especially to the iOS version: a dark mode option, a search history feature, and easy access to Apple’s dictionary definitions.

  9. Datamuse API:  On a good day our free developer API serves 200 queries per second from several hundred educational apps, games, and search engines, such as Flocabulary, RapPad, Voice Dream WriterSmashWords, LyricStudio, and DomainWheel.  In the past few years we’ve added more word metadata, wildcard patterns, Spanish support, and pronunciation features.

  10. Contests:  We've run 8 different themed poetry contests on Twitter in the past 5 years, with cash prizes going both to the winning poets and to non-profits that they can designate.  Our latest contest in early 2021 was on an unusual but urgent theme: COVID-19 vaccines. We’ve donated to 19 non-profits over the years, including 9 this year, based on the selections of the winners. Follow us on Twitter for updates on these contests and other news about our sites. 

Do these sorts of applications interest you?  We’re looking for computer science students and seasoned programmers to help us build more and better creativity tools in 2022. Do you have experience in, or enthusiasm for, natural language processing, machine learning, or data visualization? Are you available for contract work in 2022?  
Contact us!

Contributors:   Doug Beeferman, Harvey Beeferman, Linus Wong, Jonah Fried, Castedo Ellerman, Fritz Holznagel

33 responses
such awesome updates! keep at it guys!! thank you!
I've been using this site since it came out. It was one of my earliest memories of how useful the internet could be.
Loving your work Rhyme zone, you make my life so much easier, nuff respec!
Amazing! What more can I say, congrats on 25 years. Cheers to 25 more!
I love rhymezone, I've written many poems with the help of Rhymezone! It really helped increase my vocabulary And I really appreciate it telling the meaning of the word right there and then, happy birthday rhymezone 😊
I've always been a slow reader and I honestly don't believe that will ever change. My comprehension skills however, to say the least, got better in time after years of struggling for a better general understanding of words and their meanings. Truly, adventuring out and experiencing the perspectives and industries I was born around but not into allowed me to teach myself the distinct difference between cultural awareness and cultural literacy. If I had to attribute my successes as a writer to something less abstract than outgoing worldliness though, I would smile very slowly and largely. Then I would whisper, "1: Losing countless times at scrabble to my mother before finally, after years upon years of pitiful, pitiful losses, slaughtering her at her own favorite game taught me the importance of never giving up. 2: Mastering each of the difficulties of crossword puzzles using the benefit of a pencil and its eraser until I could confidently fill them all in using a pen taught me to respect my writing utensils as the tools of an honest craft. And 3: Modestly discovering that rhymezone.com has succeeded in providing me with answers to such a high percentage of my multitude of word choice conundrums over the past twenty-five years has taught me that the internet can hold more information than any single book physically can". Perhaps a different opponent or activity or website can teach you the same lessons I learned from my examples. I just really hope they do.
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