Thursday, May 29, 2008

Library Tip: Definitions

Ever find yourself reading something online and you come across a word whose meaning escapes you? That happened to me today, with the word elegiac. Not that you care about my vocabulary shortcomings, but there is a practical point to my anecdote: a quick, useful remedy for finding the definitions of unfamiliar words, courtesy of Google. It is their "define:" search parameter. Observe...
  • Look near the top right-hand corner of the Internet browser screen. Chances are you see something similar to the image below.
  • That is a Google search engine search box, built into your Internet browser.
  • In that box, type in define: then the word that you would like defined. See below.
  • Hit enter.
  • A Google search results page pops up with multiple definitions to choose from.
  • In about 30 seconds you've gone from staring blankly at a strange word to finding a suitable definition to understanding your new word in context. Brilliant!
Keep in mind, this isn't a scholarly search you've just performed (so you can't use this to define terms for your research papers!!!) but this is a very handy shortcut to help you out as you wade through every day readings online.
And in case you are curious.... Elegiac: expressing sorrow often for something past; "an elegiac lament for youthful ideals" (taken from

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