I need to be able to search for a word in the English language and have a list of related words be displayed. Let's say I have a list of 100 words that the user should be able to search through. For each term I'd have to list keywords in the database describing the object and it's very likely I could forget a common keyword or include a bad one. Are there pre-created databases that I can use? To specify, let's say I searched the word soccer. Now my result should be words/phrases relating to soccer: soccer players, soccer ball, shot, goal, etc. So I need a search engine for related words or a database containing the relations. It seems like something that could have been done by now so it would much more convenient to use that than to reinvent the wheel. My actual project deals returning activities relating to the word, so having access to the database so that I could modify it would be helpful.
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The Google Keyword planner, formerly Keyword Tool, may be another source. It advises web masters what keywords they can use in an Adwords campaign, based on keywords they already have. That means they use people's search entries as their source data.
As far as I can see, you need an Adwords account, but if you have no campaigns running that won't cost you. I have no idea if this tools can be automated, you'd have to investigate further.
You won't get a database with this tool, but from your question I gather that a lookup will do too.