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Looking for new words to avoid repeating other words? Vocabulary take a lot of time to acquire and use automatically. Even published writers rely on a variety of tools to jog their creativity and accuracy.

Here are some of our tutors’ favorites!

A thesaurus helps you find synonyms for words. Use it when you feel like your vocabulary is basic or repetitive. You can also purchase a bound thesaurus pretty easily that you can keep on your desk for easy browsing.

A collocation dictionary allows you to see which words are commonly used around other words. Use it when you want to check the appropriate usage. For example, will generate prepositions to use with a particular verb or adjectives that go with a certain noun.

A corpus is a collection of works. The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) is a large, free corpus that contains over 560 million words of text. It is an enormous language tool that allows us to observe and uncover patterns of usage in contemporary US English. One powerful analytical tool that draws on COCA is You’ll get a rich report on usage for each word that you search.

Ludwig is a vocabulary search engine. A lot of people search certain phrases in Google to see if they are commonly used. Unlike a Google search, Ludwig focuses on more literary or scientific documents, and it will provide links to the original text (often to highly-respected sources like medical journals or reputable newspapers). 

Academic Phrasebank (Manchester)

Phrasebanks collect common transitions for different “moves” in academic writing (e.g. “being critical” or “describing trends”). If you can familiarize yourself with these transitions, you’ll find it easier to quickly communicate what you want to say at various points of an essay.

Oxford English Dictionary (NU login required)

The Oxford English Dictionary (known as the OED) is an enormous archive of the English language. Each dictionary entry contains not just a definition, but the history of the word. Linguists and historians trace back to the earliest known usage of the word and provide its various definitions over time.

Online Etymology Dictionary

Still interested in the history of words? This etymology site will display the foundations of English words and can help you see patterns based on roots, prefixes, and suffixes.