There are too many questions, mostly asked by first time users, for which the answers are just synonyms. I know that the users are not allowed to ask questions for which they can get the answer just by searching on the web and also questions without proper research will not be well-received. But since a first time user might not usually go through the help centre before asking a question, that person might ask a question which just requires the meaning of an another word.

Instead of us spending our time on explaining him not to ask such questions and then flagging the question, why can't ELU have an inbuilt dictionary and thesaurus?

If a user is in need of a synonymous word, he might get the relevant words by just right-clicking on the typed word or may be we can provide a link somewhere in the page that might not force the user to go out of ELU's page and also give the suggestions for his required word.

Is it possible to add such a feature? I think it would add nice user experience and it would also lessen the works of other users.

  • Great idea. W. Edwards Deming famously said, "The supposition is prevalent the world over that there would be no problems in production or service if only our production workers would do their jobs in the way that they were taught. Pleasant dreams. The workers are handicapped by the system, and the system belongs to the management."
    – MetaEd
    Aug 30, 2016 at 17:11
  • @MetaEd Honestly, I couldn't understand :( Aug 30, 2016 at 17:25
  • Also, this is my first question on meta. I don't know why this question has received 2 downvotes. Are such questions are not allowed here? Is my question unclear? Aug 30, 2016 at 17:28
  • Deming means that we should make the system guide the user. We should not blame the user when the system does not guide them.
    – MetaEd
    Aug 30, 2016 at 18:26
  • 4
    Voting on meta is different than voting on the main site. We have an article titled ‘What is "meta"? How does it work?’ that has a good explanation.
    – MetaEd
    Aug 30, 2016 at 18:31
  • 2
    Downvotes on Meta usually signal disagreement rather than problems with question quality. Aug 30, 2016 at 20:11
  • @NagarajanShanmuganathan that's just the usual meta greeting, totally arbitrary voting on your questions is part of the deal ;)
    – Helmar
    Aug 30, 2016 at 21:53
  • 1
    @Helmar That is not at all the situation. As of this moment 5 people are in favor and 3 not. Meta tends to be more stable. You should read the links given by MetaEd
    – Mitch
    Aug 30, 2016 at 22:17
  • 1
    @Mitch but when he posted it there were two down votes first, so many that he deleted the post. I find that actually a representative situation for meta. Since down voting is arbitrary. I have three questions, neither of which has the feature request tag which is per MetaEd's link the tag where down voting indicates disagreement that have completely unexplained down votes.
    – Helmar
    Aug 30, 2016 at 22:23
  • @Mitch Admittedly this post has that tag
    – Helmar
    Aug 30, 2016 at 22:23
  • Also see a proposed Dictionary look up in the side-bar at mELL.
    – choster
    Aug 31, 2016 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


Here are some notes from chat room discussions (sources: 1, 2), summarised and expanded at various points:

  1. It's technically (or at least technologically) unnecessary. Basic dictionary and thesaurus entries are easier to find than English.SE - just type the word on its own into the search engine or even straight into the address bar of modern web browsers.

  2. If implemented, the user interface will need to be carefully considered to highlight the existence of such a facility. There are several things 'obvious' to regulars that are routinely overlooked by visitors, such as the tour and help pages. Even elements of the recent ELU election process were missed by some regulars. Given the turnout (about 10%?), it's possible that the election itself was missed by many.

  3. If implemented, it would be useful to include a pronunciation guide as well.

  4. To avoid having to implement artificially intelligent agents (AI bots) to decipher the manner in which questions are phrased, one possibility is to include a panel that displays a grid of links to basic resources against an alphabetically sorted list of all words used in the question. The panel would sit alongside the existing list of suggested questions. (In case anyone observes that the said list appears to be ignored on occasion, please refer to point 2 above.)

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