Terminology: Where Word Explorations Begin
When I hear a term that’s new to me or I’m struggling to find the perfect word for a sentence, I turn to Terminology. It’s a powerful utility app for iPhone and iPad from Agile Tortoise, the creator of Drafts.
In much the same way that Drafts gives you a place to start writing, Terminology gives you a launchpad for your word explorations, and its extensible actions are powerful enough that you will usually find what you need …
Terminology makes it incredibly simple to tap into any related words to view their results, arrow back and forth through your history, and, most importantly for me, follow the skein of terms wherever it leads. With the speaker, pencil, and heart icons in the upper right, you can have any word pronounced out loud, add notes to it, and favorite terms you want to revisit later. I find myself mostly relying on my search history in lieu of favorites. Your notes, favorites, history, and settings all sync between your devices using iCloud, so there is no need for an account.
I’m a fan of quality writing tools, and Terminology is now one of them. I quickly came to appreciate it – I quite literally used it twice today to help me better explain English idiosyncrasies to my Japanese colleagues.
Terminology for macOS
Although Agile Tortoise makes a version of Terminology for macOS, it’s not an app per se. What the company has done instead is make their Terminology dictionary and thesaurus available to add as a search option in Apple’s bundled Dictionary app. This is nice to have, especially for a free download. But you don’t get most of the features of the iOS version of Terminology, and I don’t find myself using it much.
If you do decide to try the macOS version, note that it requires a slightly complicated installation process that involves moving the Terminology.dictionary file to the appropriate folder and then activating Terminology within the Dictionary app’s preferences. Agile Tortoise provides a clear installation guide.
So give the Mac version a try if you like, but I highly recommend Terminology for iOS. It’s free to download from the App Store with an in-app purchase option to unlock the Pro features for $1.99.
I like the Mac version more because I draft more of my long prose on Mac. I still prefer the 1913 Webster’s dictionary (get my version here) and my slightly mangled physical copy of H.L. Mencken’s A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1942) for writing, but this is a solid digital tool for my portable toolbox.
Man is a tool-using animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.
(Thomas Carlyle: Sartor Resartus, I, 1836)
I added these to my Tools page for writers.