Think in English with Adah

A TEFL blog: You have to train yourself to think in English

The Phrase Finder for Smarter Learners of English Who can Tell Right from Wrong

I would like to share a great website where you could find meanings and origins of a staggering amount of English phrases with you. Here is the link to the index page: You can discover that there are four columns on this index page:

1. Meaning and Origins (This sub-link is a free but powerful phrase finder engine spawning information of phrases as the title suggests: You could also browse phrases by the beginning letters of the first words of the phrases you are finding. The explanations you can find through this engine are fully studied and correct.)

2. The Phrase Thesaurus (A thesaurus is something like a dictionary with more synonyms. However, you need to subscribe and pay for this service before you use it.)

3. Bulletin Board (If you still couldn’t find the meanings and origins of the phrases from the first phrase finder engine, have a go on this bulletin board. If you click on the term ‘Discussion Forum’ included in this column, you will be steered to another searching engine powered by the database of Phrase Finder Archives: All the explanations that you can find through this engine came from the understanding of individuals, mostly native, on the meanings and the origins of the English phrases you are looking for. Please be sure to know that what you have found from this engine might not be the true definitions of the phrases. But this can allow you pick from different perpectives the most accurate meanings and origins. And you have to be really smart to tell the correct meanings or origins from the one-sided ones, which means you also need to use your brain in learning new phrases.)

4. A Phrase A Week (Learning one phrase a week should not be too demanding for all English learners. You can subscribe this for free by typing in your name and email address and the system will send you a phrase a week. )

When to use these phrase finder engines? 

It is a common experience of us that sometimes dictionaries does not tell you the meanings and origins of some phrases such as “go the whole nine yards”. What are you going to do if you are still self-driven to know the meaning of it? It is time for you to try these phrase finder engines! 

This phrase finder engine provides more than 70,000 previous postings on English phrases written by the general public, which might not be able to be located in both online and brick-and-mortal dictionaries. This can help us in getting to know difficult English phrases once we couldn’t find them in a dictionary.

Be smart when you use the third engine “Bulletin Board”.

Visual English Dictionary

What if you look up a word like “chestnut” and find yourself straining your brain to comprehend a definition like this: any of several attractive deciduous trees yellow-brown in autumn yield a hard wood and edible nuts in a prickly bur?

What if you feel helpless when you could not find the definition of a newly-coined word such as “spork”?

Don’t panic. We’ve got some visual aids for you. You can not only understand what they are, but also view how they look.

Here is what you need to do to “see” those existing words. Go to,  put in the word and punch “Enter”. If the word you are looking for is not a new-born, there must be very explicit explanation and examples on the webpage. And here comes the knack.

Click on”查看图片“ on your right hand:

click here

Next you will be directed into Google’s picture engine. There you will find a crazy amount of pictures showing what the target words “look” like.


If you cannot find any definition for some newborn words such as “spork”, put the words in the blank (see the above picture).  You can only access Google pictures engine in this way because the main link has somehow been blocked in our office.

Enjoy the pictures! : )