We Used The Urdu Thesaurus And This Is What We Found

What’s another Urdu word for شاعری ?

Gotcha, didn’t I? But thanks to a new online thesaurus, you can find out the answer quickly, and build your Urdu vocabulary while you’re at it.

Launched in July 2016, the Urdu Thesaurus is the brainchild of acclaimed novelist Musharraf Ali Farooqi. Mr. Farooqi is also the editor of the thesaurus, which he developed over a five-year period through his publishing house, Kitab. The thesaurus, currently in its beta phase, is available for use on the web and has a free Android smartphone app that can be downloaded from the Google Play store.


According to the project’s website, the thesaurus database has over 40,000 unique Urdu words and phrases, and over 20,000 sets of synonyms.

Mr. Farooqi, who also graciously guest-edited Volume 15 of Papercuts magazine for DWL, said the Urdu Thesaurus is a free educational resource, developed through a private effort and without funding from any outside sources, according to a press release issued at the thesaurus launch in July.

At DWL, we decided to test the thesaurus and share our user experience. I and Papercuts staff photographer Moazam “Moz” Rauf went about using the thesaurus our different ways. We also got an expert, Hussain Mujtaba Zaidi, a former member of the Urdu Dictionary Board, to provide his views on the thesaurus. Here’s what we found out:

1. Moz LOVED it (and had some valuable suggestions!)

Moz used the Android app on his phone, and even though he said it was harder to type Urdu on the phone because of Android’s “counter-intuitive” Urdu keyboard, he was all praise for the resource:

“It was a joy to use the Urdu Thesaurus and Mr. Farooqi’s efforts are truly commendable.

I generally found the software pretty responsive – except that it doesn’t somehow forward the definition of a given word via SMS. I wonder if that is an issue at the end of my mobile service provider. It doesn’t drain up a lot of memory and opens and shuts smoothly….

I love the content-base of the Thesaurus. The words and phrases are generally very well defined. Absolutely no complaints there! But I wonder why the users cannot magnify results. I like the font used but the font size is a little prohibitive, especially for mobile device viewing. Either the font size for results should be increased or pinch-screen magnification be introduced.

There is a lot of empty space against almost all results. I don’t know whether that is intentional but all that empty space doesn’t look good. Don’t get me wrong there, I absolutely love the simple layout of the software but it just needs a bit of tweaking. I also wonder if it is possible to interlink words used in the meanings.

Overall I’m very pleased to see a proper Urdu Thesaurus….”

2. My 20 FAVOURITE Urdu words and the 5 things I learned

I used the web version of the thesaurus and thought it would be best if I knew which words I wanted to look up. So I sat down and made a list of my 20 favourite words of the Urdu language (regardless of language of origin). Don’t ask me “why 20?” or I’ll start repeating خاموش and its 32 synonyms I’ve learned just now using the Urdu Thesaurus.

So here was my list:


And these are the 5 things I learned about the Urdu Thesaurus by looking up my 20 words:

ONE – If the word you searched for also occurs in adjectives, other nouns and phrases, the search feature of the thesaurus will list all these terms.

For example, when I searched for the word Ishq, I also got variants such as the magnificent Ahl-e ishq.


TWO – The thesaurus also has a “Did you mean:” feature.

Notice the last line in the image above? It lists all the words one letter removed from my search term, to check for typos and similar terms. I didn’t even know Asq was a word. Now I know what it means. (To paste something, as in with glue.) I still don’t know how it’s pronounced, though.

THREE – There are 20 separate sets of ways I can now call people Jahil. And I’m going to use every single word in every single set before I die.

But on a serious note, this shows the depth of the thesaurus and the interconnection between words, context, and meaning. I noticed that several words I had looked up had a dozen or more synonym sets, some more relevant to the use I had in mind than others. Oh, and the synonym sets are alphabetically arranged, so the synonym you are looking for might not occur at the top of the list.


Update: Since I first used the thesaurus and took the screenshots, the developers have added a new organization scheme, which brings the most relevant meanings and synonym sets to the top. So if you look up the word Jahil now, you will notice two sets of synonyms at the top and then a mumkina mutradifat or possible synonyms list which resembles the long alphabetically arranged list of synonym sets I got originally.

The new organization of synonym sets

The new organization of synonym sets

FOUR – Everything’s connected. 

All the words that appear in the synonym results are hyperlinked to their own synonym sets, so when I looked up the word Qadghun, the closest synonym (or my most preferred) was the word Bandish, and when I clicked on the word Bandish, I could see all its synonyms. Very cool! I think this is one of the most amazing features of the thesaurus and it makes the thesaurus a wonderful online resource for Urdu readers and writers.


Each word on the synonyms page is hyperlinked to its own entry in the thesaurus.

FIVE – The thesaurus is a work in progress and it needs our support.

Already within the first few months, the developers have made changes in the presentation of the search results. The developers have envisioned the thesaurus to be a “fully integrated language resource across web platforms and electronic devices” with the capacity to handle complex translation tasks and have vocabulary building tools. For this, the project needs financial support. If you begin to use it and appreciate its purpose and vision, please visit the website’s donate page and contribute to the resource. Thanks!

3. The expert opinion

Hussain Mujtaba Zaidi, who recently retired from the Urdu Dictionary Board, said the thesaurus was a good initiative and it was clear to him a lot of work had gone into the project.

“The website was easy to use, even for a novice,” Mr. Zaidi said. “The resource of words is good, but it needs to increase.”

Mr. Zaidi said when he typed the word Kitab, the search returned types of books rather than synonyms. Sometimes it gave me proverbs for certain words, he said.

“These are both useful things, but my suggestion is to increase the number of pure synonyms for each word, which I am sure the builders of the thesaurus will do with time,” Mr. Zaidi said.

(Note: I think Mr. Zaidi might be referring to the search results that show up when you look up a word, after which you must click on the searched word from the results to see its actual synonyms; See points ONE and TWO above.)

Mr. Zaidi also suggested that synonyms should include words which are not usually used in spoken Urdu but are used in writing, and it would be advisable to include results from other languages that are close to Urdu. He said some publications in the market will be useful for this, including Urdu Mutaradifat by Ahsaan Danish (Markazi Urdu Board, Lahore) and Urdu thesaurus by Rafi Khawar. The Urdu Dictionary Board has also done work on this, he said.

“The Urdu online thesaurus will attract new people to Urdu,” Mr. Zaidi said. “Mr. Musharraf Ali Farooqi must be given credit for performing a good service for the language.”

So, now we hope you will give the Urdu Thesaurus a try and support the initiative as much as you can.

Oh and by the way, another Urdu word for شاعری is سخن وری .


One thought on “We Used The Urdu Thesaurus And This Is What We Found

  1. Urdu has found our tongues and hearts over and over again because of its nazakat. If not anything it has the power to make us fall in love with the idea of love itself – and that is one affair enough for a lifetime.

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