Is there a dictionary (preferably on-line) that would offer usage frequency information for each possible meaning of a word or phrase? I mean more detailed than the usual marking of some meanings (like gay..jolly) as obsolete?

I found a related question on SE A dictionary based on word occurrence frequencies

My specific problem is this. I know that the expression "make something up", has, among others, these two meanings:

  1. "compensate for something lost, missed, or deficient."
  2. "invent a story, lie, or plan."

I intend to use it in the first meaning, but I worry that people might think I have the second meaning in mind. Is context the only hint they can rely on, or is one of the two meanings much more common than the other?

I am looking for an answer that would "teach me fishing". Tell how to solve issues like this in general. I think frequency dictionary is a best bet.

  • Note: I am aware I can sidestep my specific problem by saying "make up for something", which is certainly absolutely unambiguous. At least I think so. – user7610 Dec 22 '14 at 21:32
  • 2
    In general, I don't think a frequency dictionary will help all that much, even if you find one. Suppose one meaning is 4 times as common - does that mean that it is 4 times as likely to be the intended definition? Only if the context allows. – Adam Dec 22 '14 at 22:21

Make "something" up is almost always the second definition. Make [something] up is the first.

I was late for work. I will make something up tomorrow.

Make up means invent. You are planning on inventing a lie. In this usage you might be making up something, a story, a lie, an excuse, a bunch of nonsense, etc. )

I was late for work. I will make hours up tomorrow.

Make up means compensate for. You will work extra. For this usage, you would say you are making up hours, time, missed work, credits, etc.

I was late for work. I will make up a pot of beans.

Here make up means prepare. Often used with food. In this case, you were supposed to bring donuts for the office Christmas party, but you didn't have time to stop and get them, so you will be cooking some beans.

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