Visual Thesaurus




Cool word maps add depth to language -- for a small price.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The site encourages learning and exploring language usage's more intricate details.


Aside from word searches for terms such as "murder" that turn up gory synonyms, there isn't anything graphic or inappropriate on the site.


Kids can find definitions for words such as "sex" and "porn" but have to leave the site to find anything more inappropriate.


Users can choose from four filter levels to remove profanity; profanity, slang drug terms, obscenity-related terms, slurs, and blasphemous words; or all words that "may be considered offensive or inappropriate for children," or they can opt for an anything-goes filter that removes nothing.


The site requires a subscription, which costs $2.95 a month or $19.95 a year.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Without language filters enabled, kids can search for and find terms such as "stoned" and "cocaine" and get clinical definitions.

Privacy & safety

Kids can't friend each other through the site. But they can list other sites on which they have profiles, such as MySpace and Yahoo Messenger, in their Virtual Thesaurus profile, which could encourage strangers to contact them outside the site. Also, the city and state that kids include in their profile will appear whenever they add word-list comments, unless they alter their settings.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Visual Thesaurus is a language-learning aid that does require a paid subscription. Users can choose to share their word lists with other users or make them private, and they can comment on each other's lists. But you can't friend or directly contact other users through the site, so, generally, kids' experience should be safe. The definitions kids find during searches will be enriching. However, be aware that kids also can instantly search for additional information on any term by clicking the mouse and the Control key, and the links that come up may or may not be for kid-friendly websites.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • letter or word recognition
  • vocabulary



  • academic development
  • personal growth


  • conveying messages effectively
  • multiple forms of expression

Engagement, Approach, Support


Grammar fans will love it; other teens might not be instantly enthralled but should enjoy finding words they're curious about. Commenting can encourage users to return to the site; extra readings may help spark an interest in language.

Learning Approach

The vocabulary kids could gain with Visual Thesaurus could help them improve speaking and writing skills. The option to comment is empowering, but kids won’t get much direct feedback aside from spelling suggestions when entering a word.


Educators can find lesson plans and other resources, and a blog covers many language-related topics. Kids can get a grade-appropriate, word-of-the-day email; plus, you can search for Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Dutch words.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • letter or word recognition
  • vocabulary



  • academic development
  • personal growth


  • conveying messages effectively
  • multiple forms of expression

Kids can learn new vocabulary words and find out whether a word is a noun, a verb, an adjective, or an adverb; how it's used; how you say it out loud; and its synonyms and antonyms. It's also possible to search for words in English and five other languages. Kids may need some help figuring out what each part of the word map represents, but, generally, the site isn't difficult to use. Visual Thesaurus offers an approachable, eye-opening take on language use, and its interesting extras make it worth the small price for word lovers.

This Learning Rating review was written by Erin Brereton

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What's it about?

VISUAL THESAURUS can help kids see the relationships among different words. Type in a word, and related words will branch off from the term. Colored dots indicate whether the word is a noun, a verb, an adverb, or an adjective; example sentences illustrate usage. Kids also will see antonyms and synonyms and can comment on each other's word lists. The site says it currently offers more than 145,000 English words and 115,000 meanings; registration ($2.95 a month or $19.95 a year) is required beyond the 14-day free trial.

Is it any good?


Visual Thesaurus illustrates word definitions in a more vibrant way than many books can. Searches provide mapped-out versions of a word, showing links to synonyms, antonyms, and other information. Kids get a visual look at how words relate, including helpful information on word type and how it's used in a sentence. Grammar junkies should love the site; other kids may not be drawn to it on a daily basis. However, the Visual Thesaurus definitely can serve as a classroom resource or tool to help kids hunt down individual word definitions while, as a bonus, subtly reinforcing other grammar and language concepts.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what new words your child found out about on the site. Are there other school subjects your child would be interested in looking up online?

  • (Check out our School Performance Tips guide to see how technology can help your kids be academically successful.)

  • You can post comments on the site about other users' lists. What kind of comments would be positive or helpful to post? What kinds of things shouldn’t you say?

  • Although kids can comment, they can't friend each other through the site. Why might that be safer than websites that let you connect with other users you don't know in real life?

Website details

Pricing structure:Free to Try, Paid

This review of Visual Thesaurus was written by

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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