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Searching for Variant Spellings

The Variant Spellings feature lets you use modern search terms and retrieve variant spellings of the word you entered. It is a result of an ongoing research project called Virtual Orthographic Standardization by Professor Martin Mueller of Northwestern University. Find out more about this project.

When you check the box to search using variant spellings and type a search term in the search box, you will automatically retrieve all variations of your search term. For instance, a search for Keyword(s): murder with the Variant spellings checkbox ticked will retrieve all occurrences of the word murder, as well as its variations murther, murdre, murdir, and mvrder.

The Variant Spellings feature applies to the following search fields:

Basic Search:

  • Keyword(s)
  • Author keyword(s)
  • Title keyword(s)
  • Subject keyword(s)
  • Bibliographic number
Advanced Search:
  • Keyword(s)
  • Record keyword(s) (TCP subscribers only)
  • Full text keyword(s) (TCP subscribers only)

  • Author keyword(s)
  • Title keyword(s)
  • Subject keyword(s)
  • Bibliographic number
  • Imprint
  • Reel position
  • Source library
Periodicals Search:
  • Keyword(s)
  • Author/editor keyword(s)
  • Title keyword(s)
  • Bibliographic number
  • Imprint
  • Reel position

On the Basic and Advanced Search pages, if you want to choose the spelling variants to search on, enter the word in the Keyword(s), Record keyword(s) or Full text keyword(s) search box and click the Check for variants link next to the search box. A page listing all the variants will be displayed so you can choose which variants you want to include in your search:

Example of spelling variants

Note that the most efficient way of retrieving all of the possible variant spellings and variant forms of a given search term is to use the Variant spellings and Variant forms check boxes on the search screen. Searches constructed manually (by selecting variant spellings and forms from the Check for variants display) are likely to be slower and more prone to failure.

Note: If you type more than one word in a search box and check the Variant spellings box all possible variants of each term will be included in your search. However, there is a limit to how many search terms the EEBO search engine can process. So in cases where there are too many search terms or where each term has many variant spellings the search may fail. If this happens please try the search again using fewer search terms.

Searching using Variant Forms

In conjunction with the Variant Spellings feature, you can also use the Variant Forms feature to retrieve similar forms of the word(s) you have entered.

Note that you can retrieve variant spellings and variant forms, or variant spellings only, but not variant forms only. Thus a search for Keyword(s): murder with the Variant forms checkbox checked as well as Variant spellings will not only retrieve all occurrences of the word murder as well as its variations murther, murdre, murdir, and mvrder, but will also retrieve variant forms such as murdered, murderest, murdering, etc., and all variant spellings of those terms.

The Variant Forms feature applies to the same search fields as the Variant Spellings feature.

On the Basic and Advanced Search pages, if you want to choose the variant forms to search on, enter the word in the Keyword(s), Record keyword(s) or Full text keyword(s) search box and click the Check for variants link next to the search box. A page listing all the variants will be displayed so you can choose which variants you want to include in your search.

Note that the most efficient way of retrieving all of the possible variant spellings and variant forms of a given search term is to use the Variant spellings and Variant forms check boxes on the search screen. Searches constructed manually (by selecting variant spellings and forms from the Check for variants display) are likely to be slower and more prone to failure.

Note: If you type more than one word in the search boxes and check the Variant spellings box all possible variants of each term will be included in your search. However, there is a limit to how many search terms the EEBO search engine can process. So in cases where there are too many search terms or where each term has many variant spellings the search may fail. If this happens please try the search again using fewer search terms.