Online Dictionaries

Online Dictionaries

Nowadays, many children would find it unimaginable that, not long ago, if you came across a word you didn't know the meaning of, you actually had to get up and pull out a book to look up the meaning. Online dictionaries are so pervasive now that even new editions of the Oxford English Dictionary, the most extensive dictionary in the English language, will probably never again go into print.

If you simply want to look up a word for general knowledge, then visiting will certainly suffice. On the other hand, if you're writing a formal academic paper, you'll probably want the most detailed, accurate Internet dictionary you can find. The good news is that, while some online dictionaries require a nominal membership free, many are free to use. The trick is finding the right dictionary for your needs, as different dictionaries have different specialties.

Here are some examples to get you started. Macmillan rates every word on a scale of one to three stars, according to how often a word is used, and it also provides a list of the 7,500 most common words in the language. Therefore, it's an excellent resource for people learning English as a second language, and for ESL teachers. OneLook has a nifty feature where, rather than enter a word to discover its meaning, you can enter a definition to find a word that matches. This is useful if you can't think of the exact word you're looking for – a feeling with which many writers are all too familiar. The Free Dictionary is useful for translating English words into foreign languages. Wiktionary lets you hear exactly how words are pronounced, a helpful feature for anyone who never quite got the hang of reading pronunciation marks. In addition, Wiktionary often displays images for the words you look up, and remarkably, the site is free of advertisements. Wordnik offers plenty of background on words, including statistical information and the etymologies, or histories, of those words. The site even includes a sampling of tweets that contain the word you searched for.  And if you register with Wordnik, you can even leave comments. Finally, medical students may find the WebMD Dictionary to be a godsend. The site not only includes detailed definitions for just about any medical term imaginable, but it also allows you to look up medical prefixes and suffixes.

Online learning market place

Nov 30, 1999