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It's not uncommon for a search engine to take a word that is searched for, say "vase" or "obscure", and extrapolate the results to include common versions of the word. So using the earlier examples, you'd include "vases" for results of "vase" and conjugations like "obscures", "obscuring", or "obscured" for results of "obscure".

There's a term for this process, I learned it once and we mention it now-and-then as we talk about our own search system (guess what I'm about to report a bug in! ♪), but I've forgotten the term and cannot find it again. Do you know what the term for this is? Is this in fact a common and accepted term?

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Hi @Grace, I can see you're new to the site. If you think an answer is correct, mark it as 'accepted' by clicking the tick mark on the left hand side. This earns you reputation! – fredley Mar 1 '13 at 14:50
up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is Stemming.

A stemmer for English, for example, should identify the string "cats" (and possibly "catlike", "catty" etc.) as based on the root "cat", and "stemmer", "stemming", "stemmed" as based on "stem". A stemming algorithm reduces the words "fishing", "fished", "fish", and "fisher" to the root word, "fish".

You may find that the variant used in a search engine may be a suffix-stripper, that uses a dictionary with rules to remove suffices from words to get back to the stem.

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Huh. I guess that kinda makes sense, especially the imagery of "stems" coming from a "root" (and I always did think about roots, so at first I kept thinking "branches", maybe?). A quick search on our chat tells me that this is the term that was tossed around internally. Thank you much! – Grace Note Jan 9 '13 at 16:55
See also What’s the Difference Between Stemming and Lemmatization? Lemmatization includes stemming as well as more general word matching, including synonyms, abbreviations, and typos. – Graham Herrli Jan 23 '15 at 22:28

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