Use Wolfram Alpha to help you out of those “tip of my tongue” moments

Named after creator Stephen Wolfram, Wolfram Alpha is a different kind of search engine from Google, Yahoo and all the others – it brands itself as a “computational knowledge engine” with hundreds of practical uses. You can input math calculations, get in-depth weather reports, study socio-economic data, or even find out how many calories there are in a cubic light year of fried chicken (hint: a lot).

However, it also has linguistic uses, and one that I’ve found myself using a couple of times is a kind of “crossword puzzle solving” feature. You know when you have a word on the tip of your tongue, but just can’t get it out? For example, you know the word you want starts with a “T” and ends with “-ation”, and it means to represent a word in another alphabet… but you can’t for the life of you remember the exact word.

Wolfram Alpha can help out: simply type in T and the ation parts, and fill in the gap with underscores (_). It will then calculate that you’re looking for a word that fits the template, and give you a list of possible results.

In this case, it found my word (transliteration).

This is a very basic feature of WA (it can perform some dizzyingly complex mathematical operations in a matter of milliseconds), but still worth mentioning as it can be incredibly useful if you want a quick solution to your vocabulary woes. You can find a gallery of other uses of Wolfram Alpha on the site. Pretty impressive if you ask me!

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