Learn English – Are there resources or tools for “reverse etymology”


EtymOnline is an excellent resource for online etymology searches. If, however, I am looking for lists of words sharing a given Latin, Greek or other root (which I call "reverse etymology"), I do not know which tool I could use. Do you know any?

The only thing I could think of is, if I had access to an offline etymology dictionary, I could then perform a full-text search into its content.

Best Answer

This can be achieved with a touch of Google-fu.

We want to limit our Google search to search only the site, http://www.etymonline.com/.

From reading the url structure of each result, we notice that definitions all contain ?term=, so can we refine the search with these bits of info:

site:etymonline.com inurl:term

Then, we add a space and the term we are looking for; if it appears in the text describing a word's etymology, we have a hit.

For example, we'd type the following if we wanted to search for phagos:

site:etymonline.com inurl:term phagos

Search results for "phagos"

We are a touch limited in that we must rely on the definitions containing that particular variant. For example, the above search returns 5 hits; however, a search for phagous returns 13 hits despite phagos and phagous sharing a common root.

Hope that helps!

EDIT: I've further played with this and noticed that occasionally it returns search pages which don't really add much.

These can be filtered out as they all contain the expression ?search=, so we can use:

site:etymonline.com inurl:term -inurl:search phagos

For anyone interested in understanding how that works, prepending a - negates the statement so -inurl:search evaluates to AND url does not contain "search".