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English Dictionary



An English dictionary has long been a graduation present and back-to-school staple, but with the advent of online English dictionaries, it’s possible to supplement the printed desk volume with a variety of useful online titles, depending on your purpose. This article explains.

Why Use an Online English Dictionary?

There are several occasions for which an online English dictionary can be useful. Sometimes you may be away from your print dictionary. Sometimes you may want to compare the entries in multiple dictionaries. You may wish to hear the pronunciation of a word out loud, rather than reading the phonetic respelling in print. It could also happen that you have to prepare a document according to a particular dictionary that you don’t happen to own. In all these cases, online English dictionaries may come in handy.

Types of Online English Dictionary

There are several types of online English dictionary sites. One type has an online version of a particular print dictionary. When you search for a word, you will find one dictionary’s definition. This is a good source to use if you appreciate or trust a particular dictionary or need to use it to comply with a style guide, for example.

Other English dictionary websites have a compendium of dictionaries, so that when you search on a word, you receive a variety of results. These results may all be displayed on the landing page after the search, or you may be faced with a list of references that have your chosen entry word, allowing you to choose which reference(s) you want to go on with.

On some sites, you can access a variety of references in addition to one or more English dictionaries. Popular accompaniments include a thesaurus, an encyclopedia, an atlas or a quotations collection.

Single English Dictionary Sites

While they may or may not have the most recent print version available, several major English dictionaries are available in an online version. For example, you can find the following:

  • Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary 2010 here.

  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition (2009) here.

  • Collins Pocket English Dictionary here.

  • Random House Unabridged 1997 here.

English Dictionary Compendiums

Sites that provide a landing page with multiple English dictionaries represented include:

  • Dictionary.com, which includes Random House Dictionary (2010) and Collins English Dictionary Complete and Unabridged 10th Edition (2009), as well as an unidentified dictionary as its first entry, here.

  • YourDictionary.com ,which includes Webster’s New World College Dictionary (2010) and American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition (2010), here.

Sites that provide a list of dictionaries with listings matching your search from which you can choose the one(s) you want include:

  • OneLook Dictionary Search, which divides dictionaries with the entry word searched on into general, art, business, computing, medicine, miscellaneous, slang, and technology dictionaries, here.

English Dictionary Plus

Several sites feature not just an array of English dictionaries but also an array of references, including the following:

  • Infoplease.com, which has an atlas, encyclopedia, dictionary, and thesaurus.

  • Dictionary.com, which has a dictionary, thesaurus, quotation collection, encyclopedia, and translation service.