About Word Searcher


Use the Word Searcher to find words containing particular strings of letters.

It's a good tool for discovering morphemes. For example, type in a candidate like 'rupt' then see if the words that come up are likely to have it in their word sums and are related to each other by meaning.

All searches ignore case. Results are listed with the shortest words first.

For a more involved example, see the example investigation into the words <destruct> and <distract>.

The e-mail from Pete Bowers is part of a fuller PDF 'e-book' on using the Word Searcher as a teacher.

The Word Pools

If in doubt, use the standard pool.

Click on the Word Pool Help button to find out more.

Search Patterns

The search is more powerful than it looks. You can use regular expressions in searches. These are a well-established, if occasionally esoteric, method for specifying quite general search strings.


^ matches start of word
^br matches words beginning with 'br'
[ ] matches any one of the enclosed class of characters
[w-z] matches the range of letters starting at w and ending at z, ie. letters w, x, y and z
[aeiouy] matches any vowel
vo[ck] matches 'voc' or 'vok'
$ matches end of word
[st]ion$ matches words ending 'sion' or 'tion'
[^ ] matches any character not in the enclosed class
[^aeiou] matches any consonant
q[^u] matches q followed by any letter other than u
| separates alternatives
ing|ed|er matches 'ing', 'ed' or 'er'
. matches any letter
.y.|^y matches medial or initial y
( ) groups a pattern
(ing|ed|er)$ matches final 'ing', 'ed' or 'er'
{ } specifies number of matches for the preceding pattern
m([aeiouy]{2}|ow) matches m followed by two vowels or by 'ow'
^.b.ar.$ (for crossword enthusiasts!) matches a 6 letter word of form blank-B-blank-A-R-blank

Do a web search on 'regular expression' or possibly 'Perl' for more information.

The permissible combinations here correspond to the JavaScript (and Python) set.

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History of Changes

19-Jan-12 Added the FreeBSD word pool - and it should start quicker!
5-Oct-10 Small edits to word pool to remove tabu words.
31-Jan-07 Added regular expression table to searcher page.
17-Nov-05 Added link to Pete's e-mail.
2-Dec-04 Added example investigation; and more explicit copyright notices.
8-Oct-04 Added progress message. Bug fixes: ameliorated occasional listing on one line; no longer searches on pressing enter or tabbing out of search pattern field as this caused unwanted searches in some cases.
6-Oct-04 First trial version

The idea came from Pete Bowers who created a searcher for testing hypotheses about how English spelling worked.

Copyright Neil Ramsden 2004-2012.

E-mail comments to mail@neilramsden.co.uk
Last updated 25 Jan 12

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