A synonym by definition is any word that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another in the same language (e.g. lawyer, attorney, solicitor). When compiled together in a database or system of these terms, the result is a thesaurus.

Funnelback supports user-defined synonyms that are configured in a similar manner to best bets.

Funnelback uses the defined synonyms to expand or modify the user’s query terms behind the scenes. This allows an administrator to use synonyms for additional query modification beyond the thesaurus-like definition of a synonym.

Uses for synonyms

Synonyms in Funnelback can be used to:

  • expand a term into a set of equivalent terms. E.g. when somebody includes the word lawyer somewhere in a query also search for attorney or solicitor.

  • expand acronyms. E.g. if query includes the term moj also search for ministry of justice

  • map user language to internal language, or non-technical language to the equivalent technical terms. Users often don’t know the exact technical words to use and this can prevent them from finding what they are looking for. E.g. map bird flu to H1N1.

  • auto-correct known misspellings. E.g. if a query includes the word qinwa automatically replace this with quinoa. Funnelback does include a spelling suggestion system, but synonyms can enhance the user experience by fixing a misspelling without a user needing to click on an extra did you mean link.

  • Use with care. This mechanism is silent, the user may receive little or no notification that their query has been modified, which could be very confusing if used inappropriately.

  • The use of synonyms can be switched off by using the synonyms=off CGI parameter when making a request to search, or by setting -synonyms=off as a query processor option.

  • The content of the synonyms.cfg file must be in UTF-8 encoding. Use of accented letters, Greek, Cyrillic, Chinese etc. in other character sets will either cause missed matches or garbled queries.

Managing synonyms

Synonyms are managed from the synonyms section of the insights dashboard. The manager provides tools for creation, editing, cloning and deletion of synonyms, and also the ability to publish and unpublish.

If the service does not have any synonyms defined the following screen is displayed when accessing the synonyms section:


Clicking the add new button opens the quick input screen. Multiple synonyms can be quickly entered from the this screen:


If there are synonyms defined a table listing the synonyms is displayed.


Cloning an item makes a copy of an existing synonym that can then be edited.

Clicking on a synonym opens the synonym inside the editor. Administrators also have the ability to publish, unpublish, clone and delete a synonym.


Synonyms are not available in the live search until they are published. This allows a synonym to be created and tested before release, or staged for later use.