Irrespective of whether English is your first language or not, there is certainly no damned way you could con all the words it has. Perhaps, no language can be learnt completely, for the simple fact that languages are always evolving. Munching all the words is the job of a dictionary, and technology makes accessing one super easy.
Why use dictionaries on the internet over physical, hardcopied ones? Well, the answer is simple. Dictionaries online are up-to-date, reflecting the latest inclusions and exclusions from the language. They are not heavy (well, literally). And yes, they can be accessed from something as small as a mobile phone with internet access.
There are several places on the internet where you can find word definitions. We’ll highlight the best ones in this list.
Perhaps the most widely used dictionary online. The service pulls out all stops to be as feature rich as possible with a clean, easy to navigate layout (although with some ads!). When a word can mean many things, its several meanings are listed separately with definitions, synonyms, antonyms and example sentences. Each word also comes with an audio clip that speaks out the word, so pronunciation is also taken care of. The site includes several other features like a podcast, a word of the day service, cross word puzzles, word games and a sister thesaurus site.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary works just like it should. Apart from the regular english dictionary, users can also lookup words in the thesaurus or search for definitions of spanish-english entries. A newer feature that includes Medical search lets people query medical related entries which also includes the chemical formula of the substance, where available. The site looks a bit cluttered though, but does its job well.
Wiktionary is the child of the Mediawiki foundation, which also owns Wikipedia. Just like it’s companion, Wikipedia, Wiktionary too is multi-lingual. So, it’s not only about English, you can look up words in various languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Chinese and a many others. The dictionary being a wiki, is totally editable. So you can not only source from it, but also contribute at the same time by making edits or adding new definitions.
The Free Dictionary is more of a one-stop-shop for all your word needs. It explains itself as Financial Dictionaries, Thesaurus, Acronyms and Abbreviations, Idioms, Encyclopedia, a Literature Reference Library, and a Search Engine all in one!. There are several modules on the homepage which you can move around and customize as per you needs. It acts as a portal and servers quotations, word of the day subscription, forums, articles and events and news in history.
Google too recently launched a new dictionary search engine. Although, it is not exactly new because you could always normally search for define:wordon Google Search, but this time, Google has put it out as a new service. Available on Google.com/dictionary, you can query words in English as well as many other languages. For words that Google doesn’t have a definition for, it will link to other web sources where the word was found. Instant translations can also be made at the same time.
Wordnik is relatively newer on the block, but dissents to dawdle at features. Named one of the best products of 2009 by PC World, it succeeds at putting a lot of information on one page without overwhelming the user. On a typical word page, you would find numerous definitions from several dictionaries, a bunch of example sentences, statistics on how many times the word has been looked up, synonyms, antonyms, pronunciation audio clips, Twitter mentions, a chart that shows the activity on that word in previous years and photos on Flickr that relate to the word. Overwhelmed? You wouldn’t be, trust me.
The OneLook Reverse Dictionary is totally one of a kind. Instead of looking for word definitions, it will look for the word. There are instances when you know what you want to explain but can’t find the right word for it. In such situations, OneLook should help. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. Just type it into the box above and hit the “Find words” button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you’ll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first.
No list of dictionaries is complete without Definr. When you want definitions, and only definitions, Definr is the way to go. There is one box where you enter your word, press enter and voila, here you have your definitions. No page load, no ads, no crap only definitions, just ajaxified!
Although more popular on the iPhone and for its awesome iPhone dictionary app, Ninja Words is no less a sharp-word-sword on the web. Supported by Ajax, just like Definr, Ninja Words assassinates all page loads. On the sidebar, a history of your queries is maintained, so you can see what all words you have been through. To lookup several words simultaneously, just separate them with a comma and then search.
#10 Urban Dictionary
Words found here are to found nowhere, for it is the dictionary of constant change, a dictionary of latest trends and a dictionary of the next generation. Urban Dictionary is not a typical dictionary. It is ten years up! Words on the Urban Dictionary are added with respect to their usage in informal conversations. Since it’s totally about the latest language trends, who to trust than the public itself? So, the dictionary is open to anyone. Add a word and explain it. If people like it, they will vote it up. If not, then consider your word invention a waste of letters ;)
Other Interesting Tools
Phrases.net : is the place to find and learn new phrases and expression of speech used in daily life.
AcronymFinder.com : because you are not the only one who doesn’t know what that acronym means.
HowjSay : to learn how to pronounce words and phrases.
WordWeb : desktop dictionary application.
If you liked the post, don’t forget to share it with your friends!