Collocates data

Corpus of Contemporary American English


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Collocates provide information on word meaning and usage, following the idea that "you can tell a lot about a word by the words that it hangs out with". Let's look at two quick examples. (Note that the collocates below are grouped by part of speech and then sorted by frequency.)
 

13730 brooding j
noun dark, eyes, look, silence, presence, sky, sense, cloud, thought, mood, portrait, bird misc dark, over, sit, silent, heavy, gray, stare, handsome, mysterious, beneath, moody

Suppose you find the word brooding in a short story and you don't know what it means. You could simply look it up in a dictionary, and you'd find a definition like "cast in subdued light so as to convey a somewhat threatening atmosphere". But the collocates lists provide a much better and complete "word sketch". You can really "feel" the meaning of this word by seeing what other words it occurs with.
 

11961 sprawl n
adjective urban, suburban, rural, industrial, metropolitan, vast, unchecked, surrounding, Southern, increasing noun city, development, traffic, growth, pollution, congestion, land, town, farmland, county verb create, encourage, stop, fight, reduce, curb, slow, threaten, limit, crawl

A dictionary would tell you that sprawl refers to "growth" or a "spreading out". But the collocates show that it refers particularly to the growth of cities (city, suburban, farmland), that it may be more common in the Southern US, that it is associated with pollution and congestion, and that people are trying to reduce, stop, and fight against it.