Update to how we handle User Synonyms

We’re making some small changes to the way user synonyms are managed, to make it easier to see which synonyms are valid and which aren’t.

In case you’re wondering what user synonyms are, they’re the extra meanings that you can add, to cover any meanings that we don’t have listed, and make sure that they’re accepted as correct during your reviews. We try to cover as many meanings as possible, either by listing them visibly, or behind the scenes, but we don’t cover everything (yet, at least). We know that there are also lots of learners who add meanings in other languages besides English.

As well as trying to include all the correct meanings learners might enter, we also keep a record of incorrect answers for each item. If you enter that answer, it will be marked as incorrect. We call these meanings “blocked” meanings. We have these so that we don’t accept an incorrect answer because, say, it’s close enough in spelling to a correct answer.

For example, “architecture” is listed as a blocked meaning for 建築家 (architect), because it is clearly wrong, and is an easy mistake to make if you haven’t mastered the word yet.

So far so good. But some users have experienced problems in the past because, if you added “architecture” as a user synonym for 建築家, we weren’t able to warn you that is was a blocked meaning. That’s a pain, because when you come to enter it in a review, you probably won’t understand why it’s marked as incorrect.

To fix this, we’ve updated the way we manage user synonyms. Now, if you add a user synonym that is a blocked meaning, we’ll warn you, both at the moment you enter the synonym, and when you try to answer with it.

So if you enter “architecture” as a user synonym for 建築家, it will now be displayed in red, and you’ll see a message explaining that it’s blocked and will be marked as incorrect during reviews.

Similarly, if you enter “architecture” for 建築家 during reviews, you’ll see a message letting you know that it wasn’t accepted because it’s blocked.

While this isn’t a big change, I hope it will clear up any confusion around blocked meanings!


Very naise


This is a great change! Third-party apps should take extra care to avoid accepting blocked synonyms as correct answers, and something similar might be a good solution for them too.


Nice! :smile:

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Out of curiosity, are there any stats on the frequency of these occurrences?

I can understand people putting a single letter as a synonym for a vocab word they already know to skip it, but putting a clearly incorrect word as a synonym sounds very counter-productive :frowning:


Hi @linchou! This update was based on user feedback rather than incorrect answer data (we don’t currently collect that). They were all cases of learners accidentally entering an incorrect meaning because they had misunderstood the explanation, learned an incorrect meaning elsewhere, or perhaps entered a synonym for a different use of the English word, rather than knowingly entering an incorrect word. :slight_smile:


But what if I want to learn incorrect meanings for my kanji and vocab? This is an unacceptable change that completely breaks my routine!


I can remember getting tripped up by this maybe only once, so I don’t imagine its common, but this is still a welcome change. :+1:

Ah, that makes sense! Big thanks for the clarification!

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I know you’re trying to be sarcastic, but in this case, you weren’t able to override a blocked meaning with a synonym before either. The only thing that’s changed is that now the behaviour is transparent.

I consider this change to be a useful improvement.


I think this IS a pretty big thing! Great job team! :clap:


It’s been requested and asked for a long time now, the lack of transparency about what items are on the blocklist. I really like that you also thought to give warning to people about whatever synonyms they already have added, but which might be seen as a wrong answer. Overall, this is great stuff. :slight_smile:

I have a question, which is a bit vague as I can’t quite confirm it in an easy way. But, essentially, when you make updates to items here on WK, not just this update, but rather the weekly ones you always do - will that affect user synonyms and/or user notes for those items?

I’ve been thinking that maybe not all my old user synonyms are viable anymore and can’t either decide if that’s for the best or not. XD


It had better Shake, then remove synonym and prevent adding back, imo.

Actually, what’s not transparent is not only the block list, but also the allow list (hidden synonyms), which can get surprising sometimes. Not to mention that allow list has typo tolerance as well.

I successfully add architecture to user synonym just now.




So currently it has to match capitalization. Also, adding correctly capitalized one isn’t blocked, just warned.


I don’t use user synonyms much, but this is a great way to handle this issue, both transparent and user-friendly, hats off to the team

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Hi @ekg, if we add a blocked meaning, it will show up as red in your synonym list from that point onwards, and be marked as incorrect (with the new message) in reviews. I hope that answers your question!

Hi @polv, thanks for pointing that out! It shouldn’t be sensitive to capitalization so we’ll look into that. Would you mind clarifying what you mean by that last sentence? Do you mean it is not marked as incorrect in reviews?


I should have been more specific. I was intending it to be more general and specific in scope as to user synonyms. My bad. What I wanted to know was: can WK updates delete your user notes or synonyms for those specific items affected by changing which synonyms goes or moving items between levels or adding context sentences or anything really.

I’m probably just misremembering things at this point, but I have had this uncanny feeling of lost user synonyms as I’ve been going through this again. (did I only “think” I added stuff really? Or did data disappear?). Because, a lot is still there and I just don’t know anymore? So I thought I’d ask about it, more from a technical point of view I guess? ^^’

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Ah sorry, I understand now! The answer is no, none of our updates would remove or alter your user synonyms or notes. :slight_smile:


Okay. It’s just me misremembering then. :joy: Thanks for the quick answer.

For some explanation/context where that question came from: I made extensive use of the user notations for sure. But, not equally throughout my WK journey the first time. Maybe, I just thought very hard about stuff, but never bothered to write some of it down, sometimes I did. That’s very possible actually due to lazi! But, I was very systematic about it in the midway-point of WK I feel. But, yeah, I do know my use of the system declined in the 50-60-leves. But not a the 20s. :eyes: It’s kind of interesting to re-experience this thing, from what things I took note of before. Some are just not useful anymore, others I wished I’d taken note of! XD

It’s a different learning journey this time round, I think is the lesson. ^^ Like, I’m experiencing if from a different angle or POV.

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I can add Architecture as a synonym even now, though the red warning also appears immediately.

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I’m not wondering how to handle this, if blocked synonyms are added to periodically.

@TofuguJenny do you know if there’s any way this data can be checked against the API? I can’t see any way to achieve this easily other than dumping the warning list periodically, which seems time consuming.

Thanks for the bug report. I have made the highlighting of blocked user synonyms case-insensitive. If you enter architecture or Architecture or any variation of character case they will now be correctly highlighted as blocked.

If i understand you correctly, you are saying we don’t block the user synonym for being entered?! That is correct, as the block list can change over time and user synonyms may become valid in future. For that reason we don’t prevent you entering user synonyms that match existing blocked meanings, we just warn you by highlighting the offending user synonym and showing you a helpful message.