I need adjectives!
October 18, 2007 10:22 PM   Subscribe

I need . . . adjectives! Is there a *scannable* online dictionary or some way in which I can search through giant lists just for the adjectives?

Through ardent work, brain-searching and tedious list-making, I have compiled a list of roughly 6,000 adjectives for a very cool project language project I'm doing.

I am specifically looking for adjectives that people are likely to use in everyday speech or writing at least once in their life. So "tetrahydrogrammatical" isn't really going to help me per se! Slangy adjectives are okay as long as they've existed in English long enough to become encounterable and continually used outside of just a subculture. So "groovy" would be fine, whereas "rockist" would still be too specific to a small group of people in a short timeframe. Somewhat archaic words are okay if they're still likely to be encountered even rarely in speech; "smitten" would work, but probably not "pantaloon'd." I've looked for adjective lists online and while I have found some, they are generally include fewer than 1600 words -- less than what've already found.

Since "adj." is the ordinary dictionary abbreviation for "adjective" and an unusual letter-cluster in English, it would seem me that if there were a scannable online dictionary, I could just pick them by searching for that abbreviation. Of course, any unusual adjective lists would be great, too.

I'll post details on the project once it's near completion. Many MeFites will be interested, I promise.
posted by Dee Xtrovert to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could download a dictionary from project gutenberg or some other text dictionary and then search through it with notepad or word.
posted by hamhed at 11:19 PM on October 18, 2007

my favorite adjective is "callipygian"
posted by bruce at 11:27 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can download a copy of the Princeton WordNet database. Or, like me, you can spend hours browsing it.

It doesn't give an indication of how rare the words are, though.
posted by hattifattener at 12:12 AM on October 19, 2007

Response by poster: Brilliant - thanks. It ought to keep me busy for weeks.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:16 AM on October 19, 2007

Dee X —

When seeking adjectives, viz. Oxonian,
Some that are proper, e.g., Devonian,
Would be good to include
(Cf. Frankenstein food).
N.B. Dubya: "Don't forget Polonian!"
posted by rob511 at 3:21 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out a corpus of the English language? Here's one run by Oxford University that's got two billion entries (but not two billion different words!). Use the sidebar on the right to navigate between different pages about the corpus.
posted by mdonley at 3:30 AM on October 19, 2007

Since you only need words out of context, you can check this page. You can download a file with POS (part of speech) codes, and then use Access or Excel (or whatever) to open the files. Then you can filter or query to get only adjectives (POS tag: aj0). The bonus with this method is you have frequency counts! So I can see from this method that the most frequent adjectives in spoken (British) English are good, nice, right, other, and little.

You can download a fuller list which includes written English.

If you need help you can email me. My address is on my profile page.
posted by strangeguitars at 5:18 AM on October 19, 2007

A thesauraus is where people go when they want adjectives.
posted by smackfu at 5:25 AM on October 19, 2007

This data base probably has much more information than you need, but there is a very nice search for word types. You can also limit the search based on lexical frequency - high frequency words are generally those with a frequency of more than 60 per million (by convention).
posted by bluesky43 at 8:17 AM on October 19, 2007

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