Is it okay to use this site to ask for words that fit a given definition? Dictionaries are great for looking up definitions if you know the word you're looking up, but not the other way around. I'm sure that's not terribly clear, so here's an example of the type of question I mean:

Hey, you know how some people think that an angel or a minor god or the Grim Reaper shows up after you die, and takes your soul to the afterlife? Is there a word for people/beings who do that do that kind of guiding?

I've found two Meta questions the opposite of what I'm asking about (one, two), and one that asks about tagging these questions but no dupes or anything that says these questions are or aren't allowed.

(By the way, the answer to the sample question is psychopomp.)

  • 1
    I think yes, but who am I?
    – BBischof
    Commented Oct 12, 2010 at 5:14
  • 1
    Short answer: Yes.
    – JFW
    Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 11:52

3 Answers 3


Well, there are so-called "reverse dictionaries" such as this one (and searching for "soul guide afterlife" returns "psychopomp" as the top result). That being said, I doubt many people know that they even exist. Plus, we already have quite a few questions tagged "single-word-requests", and so far, they are not getting close-voted at all. In fact, they are quite fun, while at the same time not being fun for fun's sake. They are fun and challenging, and people can learn from them a lot (as opposed to fun questions such as "what is your favorite punctuation mark?").

  • 4
    That's a good point. When answering such a localized question, it is useful to explain how you solved the problem so people know how to help themselves in the future. "Teach a man to fish." Commented Oct 12, 2010 at 14:53
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    @RegDwi, Re "I doubt many people know that they even exist"; Because it's pretty much a niche tool for researchers, and this wasn't possible in the past era; it only started on 1974.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 10:34

Yes. This is certainly a valid type of question on the English language. Moreover, as you pointed out, it's not even possible to use the dictionary for that.


I'll preface this by stating that it's Good for the Internet to have a Google-able worldwide-crowdsourced reverse dictionary.

The question thus is whether the community here (English.SE) wants to serve this role.

So far, consensus is "yes" provided it cannot be easily answered with a general thesauras and the usage of the requested expression is clear.

( Who knows, OneLook and Datamuse which currently utilizes Google Books Ngram data, CMU phonetic data, WordNet, word2vec, and etc, might start indexing and incorporating English.SE's data dumps and return results obtained from here. Mere technical solutions alone will never be able to completely replace crowdsourced solutions. )

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