Online Dictionaries: A Universe of Words

Everybody needs a dictionary. You may have a tattered family volume, a hardcover dictionary from student days, or a paperback bought at a bargain price. But you don’t have to buy a dictionary, you may go online and discover a universe of words and fun.

Looking for a Spanish translation? Go online. Need a definition for a Cockney word? Go online. Wondering about a Chinese symbol? Go online. Before you visit an online dictionary you need to prepare for the “trip.” Grab a cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of water, and a healthy snack, because once you start reading dictionaries you’ll be absorbed for hours.

Start with “OneLook Dictionary Search,” a fascinating Website with 6,257,269 indexed words from 993 dictionaries. Your options include a basic word search or a “wildcard pattern” search that matches any sequence of letters. The word “bluebird” is used as an example. To find the definition you may enter “blue” or “bird” or “bl (blanks here)rd.” There’s also a reverse dictionary on the Website. If you enter the phrase “when cancer spreads through the body,” for example, dozens of medical words pop up.

“The AlphaDictionary” Website is just plain fun. A word of the day is posted on the site and when I accessed it the word was “glade.” You may submit your own word of the day if you’re so inclined. If you get bored while you’re looking for definitions click on “AlphaDictionary Word Games” and do crossword puzzles and “word jungles.”

Cambridge University Press has a Website called “Cambridge Dictionaries Online.” You’ll find a variety of dictionaries on this site, plus dozens of “Online Activities and Worksheets.” I clicked on CLD, activities to do with the “Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary,” and found an alphabet trivia quiz, collation games that show how words are used together, multiple meanings, verb patterns, information on nouns, verbs, and adjectives, “The Rich and Famous” crossword puzzle, and more.

There’s also a list of “The Top 40 Words 2004” on this site. I learned the word “advice” has held its place as number one. According to Cambridge University, “The only change in the top 6 is the fall of ‘idiom’ from 4th place in 2003 to 17.” Like a soccer mom rooting for a small kid on the team, I found myself rooting for “idiom” and hoped it would rise to stardom again.

“The TravLang Translating Dictionaries” Website has dictionaries in more than 35 languages, including Hungarian, Polish, Esperanto, and Turkish. You’ll also find an AOL Translator link and an online dictionary on this site. Many foreign language dictionaries, including this one, have ads on them so be prepared.

“Webopedia” (I love the name) is both a dictionary and a search engine for Internet and Technical definitions. I’ve used it several times and found it user-friendly and concise. You’ll find other unusual dictionaries on this site, too: South Asia dictionaries, Biblical dictionaries, Gaelic dictionaries, and more.

You’ll want to check out an encompassing Website called “The Internet Public Library.” A stop here gets you “Strange and Unsual Dictionaries,” “VoyCabulary” (links to Web pages or phrasesto online references like dicitonaries) and even a Chinese Characters Dictionary.

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