Help with Greek Texts: TLG Part 2 (Searching)

In our first post, we covered the basics: how to find a text you already know exists. But sometimes you might need to find texts that you don’t know exist. For this post, we’re tackling intermediate TLG — textual searching. Some reasons you might search the TLG include: 

  • to find a textual parallel
  • to find the earliest (or latest) use of an unusual word
  • to figure out the semantic range of a common word
  • to figure out what a word you don’t know or understand means.

Wow, that’s a lot. So the TLG can be really useful in studying Greek texts.

Searching the TLG is a bit more complicated than browsing. You enter the site just like you would to  browse:

tlg, greek

Again, I strongly advise using the Unicode site.

Once you’re through the entry screen, things change a little! Before, we used the large center screen to “search” (but this is really “browsing”). Now you should take a look at the left-hand sidebar menu.

tlg, greek

There are a few options for searching, but if you’re looking for parallels or a definition, the “Simple search” should be enough:

tlg search

You can choose to type your Greek in by hand or use the keyboard and your mouse/keypad. I usually use the keyboard, because I’m bad at typing Greek. But this is up to you. There are also several options for displaying your results on the side. I like to order mine by date and to show more than 5 options on a page (very slow going). Depending on what I’m looking for, I might use the 100+ per page options, but usually 20 is easier to handle. You can also decide whether you want more or less than 3 lines of context, but I find that 3 is usually good — your word will come in the middle. If you do all of those things, your screen will look like this:

tlg greek search, keyboard

(Only you’ll have a full Greek alphabet, because I’m not that great at cropping.)

Now comes the confusing part: picking which of the buttons you want. Each one does a different kind of search, and we’ll take a look at all of them (except “start over”, which restores everything to the default “Simple Text Search”).

If you choose textual search, the results will list all occurrences of the series of letters you put in. The TLG doesn’t pay attention to spaces, so -os ios- and –osios are treated as the same. (So, to make this a real example: for the textual search, adelfos Ioseph would show up in the same results as TheodosiosIf you don’t want that, you need to include a wildcard — more on this in the next post.)

Your textual search results look something like this, with the search term highlighted:

search results


If you find something interesting, you can either note it down or hit the “browse” button, which takes you to that place in the text directly, with your word still highlighted.

TIP: because I wanted to order my results by date, if I’m not interested in Thucydides, I’ll need to scroll forward … a lot. So you should think about what you’re looking for before you search. If you look at the top, you still have the option of picking a few authors to search in. So if you’re only interested in 5th century Athens, you might be better off searching only 5th century Athens.

TIP #2: The TLG deals only in centuries, not years. So 5 BC = 5th century BCE.


But what if you’re interested in all words that begin with a certain compound? (For example, everything that would begin sunana-). That’s where the word index search becomes your friend. It is like searching every word in a traditional dictionary. So there is a default new word at the beginning of whatever you type in; you need to type an extra space at the end if you’re looking for a complete word or phrase.

Here is the same search done as a word index:

word index search

You can then select one or more options (the left and middle button), or see how many times each author uses each word (the right button). We’ll take a look at both. Here’s an example of the top choice, which differs from choice #2 only in that it lacks an accent — so if you were interested in the form profasei more generally, you’d want both #1 and #2:


To check out the full corpus count, it’s better to choose all forms:

full corpus TLG


TIP: this is only for the one form. Having said that, it’s a good way to compare vocabulary usage in different authors (is anyone surprised that Thucydides is obsessed with pretexts?).


Okay, but maybe you’re looking for semantic range, so you want all instances of a word, regardless of case. That’s when you use the lemmatized search (if it’s one word, use “Lemma”; if you want a phrase, “Advanced lemma”). This search takes whatever you type in and finds all possible declined/conjugated forms of that word.

Here’s our search again:

lemmatized search, tlg

Here you get the nominative that the TLG believes your word derives from. Depending on your search term, there might be multiple results, and you might want to pick only one. In this case, it’s a little easier. So here we “show all forms”:


At this point, any case is fair game. But note that your search term is still highlighted!

So those are more of your TLG options. In our final* TLG post, we’ll cover wildcards, advanced searches, and making your own TLG account.

(*UPDATE: it’s not the last one.)



Please note: all images are copyright the TLG. They are used here for educational purposes. ONLY. Please don’t circulate.


Creative Commons License
Help with Greek Texts: TLG Part 2 (Searching) by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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