Searching the Perseus Word Study Tool in Chrome & Firefox

Earlier this week, Stephen Margheim posted an Alfred workflow called Parsers for getting vocabulary and morphology from the Perseus Word Study Tool. As he writes: “It gets its parsing information from the powerful Perseus project, but presents the results in the clean user-interface of Alfred.” It looks like a great way of making the balance between reading Latin and Greek and working with lexica as frictionless as possible.

The problem is I don’t use Alfred. (I’ll be honest—Margheim’s post has made me pretty curious about the program and I think I’ll look into it to try out his workflow. In addition, I asked a question about a potential feature in Parsers and Margheim had an update ready before I could even send a follow-up tweet. Even more of reason to experiment.)

But I have done something similar for years now—namely, using a keyboard shortcut to make Perseus lookups quicker and a more natural part of my own reading workflow. On an average day, I probably look up 40-50 words (two or three times that during intense work, like studying for comps) and this has saved my a lot of time. My solution is not as elegant or as fully featured as Parsers and lacks what to me is its killer feature—the ability to export, maintain and work with your search results and history. Still, it works well (as long as you have an internet connection!), works in two of the most popular browsers, and is pretty easy to set up. For these reasons, I decided to write this how-to.

I’ve listed below the steps for setting up custom Perseus searches in both Chrome and Firefox. Note that these will work with any website that uses a predictable URL query.

Making a Custom Search Engine in Chrome

  1. Right click the address bar (i.e. the white space where you usually enter web addresses) and choose Edit Search Engines… from the dropdown menu. You can also enter into the address bar: chrome://settings/searchEngines
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the section Other Search Engines and add the following information to the three (3) blank boxes:
    • Perseus Latin Word Study Tool
    • latin
      • Note the following about this address, paying particular attention to the URL parameters following the question mark (?):
        • la: this stands for “language” and we have assigned la for Latin
        • l: this stands for “lemma” and we have assigned %s which is a wildcard; when we use our custom search engine whatever we type after “latin” will replace %s.
      • Make changes as need to create a Greek search engine. The la abbrevation for Greek in Perseus is gr.
  3. Click Done in the lower-right corner to save your changes.
  4. To use your Latin search engine, go to the address bar (⌘L), and type “latin verba”. This will open up the Word Study Tool entry for verbum.

Note that when you type “latin” into the address bar, you will still have typical search results for “latin” in Google (or your default search engine)…

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.21.04 AM

…but when you press the space bar after “latin” the address bar changes to show that you are using your custom search engine, shown below as “Search Perseus Word Study Tool”.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.21.24 AM

You can know search for any word. The Perseus Word Study is particularly nice since it allows not just lemmas but all word forms. When using the custom Greek search engine, you can enter text using betacode or unicode (with or without diacriticals).

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.25.02 AM

When you hit return you should be taken directly to the Word Study Tool page with your entry, listing the possible morphology and offering you links for the more detailed lexicon entries (e.g. Lewis & Short or Elem. Lewis)

 Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.21.48 AM

Making a Keyword Bookmark in Firefox

Firefox has a similar feature for quickly retrieving webpages with predictable searches called Keyword Bookmarks.

  1. Open the following webpage:
  2. Add a bookmark for this page (⌘D).
  3. Go to Show All Bookmarks under the Bookmarks menu (⇧⌘B) and select the Word Study Tool Bookmark.
  4. You will see options for “Name”, “Location” and “Tags” as well as a down arrow for more options. Click this arrow and you will now see “Keyword” as an option. (see images below)
  5. Assign this bookmark the keyword “latin”.
  6. In practice, it works the same as the Chrome search engine. Go to the address bar (⌘L), and type “latin verba”. This will open up the Word Study Tool entry for verbum.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.39.53 AM Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 9.40.23 AM

I have used these custom searches so many times that ⌘L-latin-quidquid flows quickly out of me with sheer muscle memory. I hope that you find these useful as well.

Next up, I’d like to write a bash script that searches the Word Study Tool from the command line and returns the short definition. More on that soon.


  1. Thanks for the shoutout. On the final point, you could fairly easily rework the Python code in Parsers to be accessible from the command line. I don’t know how good Bash will be at parsing HTML. But Python’s BeautifulSoup is crazy powerful. And Parsers already has the HTML parsing written. Just a suggestion to maybe save some time.

    1. I’ve taken your advice and put together a command-line Perseus search using Python/Beautiful Soup—I’m going to clean it up a bit, test some more, and post soon. Thanks!

    2. Here is my attempt to get basic Perseus Word Study Tool lemma-definition information from the command line using Python/Beautiful Soup. I’d love to hear your feedback.

  2. hurrah for Beautiful Soup, which is part of what makes Logeion possible. My Chrome shortcut for both Greek and Latin is Command-L L space, no need to specify Greek or Latin. 🙂

  3. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Quix (quixapp dot com), but what I’ve done is added it to my Safari bookmarks bar and extended it using the Quix Syntax:

    pg Parse a Greek word with the Perseus morphological tool
    pl Parse a Latin word with the Perseus morphological tool

    So basically I hit ⌘1 and type pg/pl depending on the language and then the word I’m looking up in the pop-up box.

    1. Thanks for a posting an option for Safari—don’t think there is built-in feature that does this.

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