webster - look up words in the dictionary


webster [-d] [-s] [words]


Webster is used to look up words in the online copy of Webster's 7th Collegiate dictionary. If words are given as arguments to the program, they will be looked up and their definitions printed. If no arguments are given, webster enters interactive mode, and prompts for words to be defined.

In interactive mode, you will be prompted with ``Word: ''. Just type the word you want defined, or simply type a blank line to exit. If the word is found, webster will then provide the complete dictionary entry for the word including definitions, pronunciation, and derivation. If the specified word was not found, webster will try to find close matches, as if you spelled the word wrong. The possibilities are numbered and typed out. To select one of them, you can just give its number.

By preceding a word with ``!'', the spelling of the word can be checked instead of its definition. webster will check the spelling of the word, and will indicate whether it is spelled correctly or not. If the word is misspelled, webster will try to provide a list of alternate spellings.

Additionally, webster can match words using wildcards. The character `%' in a word means match exactly one character, so ``w%n'' matches ``win'', ``won'', ``wan'', etc. The character `*' matches zero or more characters, so ``a*d''matches ``ad'', ``and'', ``abound'', ``absentminded'', and so on. Any number of wildcards can be used, and in any arrangement.

The ESC (escape) and `?' characters also perform special functions. Typing a partial word, followed by ESC, tries to complete what you have typed so far. If what you have typed is a unique abbreviation for a word, the word is typed out. If what you typed is ambiguous, webster will beep at you and do nothing. Typing `?' at the end of a partial word will print out all the possible endings for the word you typed. If there are no possible endings, webster will beep at you and do nothing.


Word: plur?
Maybe you mean:
1. plural	2. pluralism	3. plurality	4. pluralization
5. pluralize	6. pluri-	7. pluriaxial
Word: pluri?
Maybe you mean:
     	1. pluri-	2. pluriaxial
Word: pluria<ESC>xial

Where the text in italics is typed by the user, and the rest by webster. Note that wildcards may be used in conjunction with ESC and `?', for example

Word: plu*x<ESC> Word: pluriaxial


The -d and -s options may be used to put webster into define or spell mode, respectively. These modes indicate what webster does with words (define them or check their spellings). The inverse mode is available using the ``!'' as described above.


look(1), spell(1), websterd(8)


The translation between all the neat special characters in the dictionary such as upside-down e's, cedillas, accent marks, etc. and a simple ASCII terminal is marginal at best. Most of the characters are fairly well faked, but a few of them are impossible. In particular, the schwa (upside-down e) is represented by an asterisk.

Occasionally, when you type a word to the prompt, another prompt appears without the word being defined. If this happens, try typing the word again. If it still doesn't work, exit the program and start again.


Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary, Copyright (C) 1963 by Merriam-Webster, Inc. No part of this information may be copied or reprinted without the express written consent of the publisher.


David A. Curry

ECN 1 May 1986 March 11, 2008