My favorite online dictionaries to learn English

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Look, it's true that installing dictionary programs on your computer gives you certain advantages over using online dictionaries. For instance, if your Internet goes down you can still count on your dictionary program, and offline dictionary apps are slightly faster than their web counterparts.

On the other side, in online dictionaries you usually have access to more content compared to what you normally get in a dictionary program, like examples sentences, images and audio files (unless you buy a very comprehensive dictionary like Oxford 8th Edition for Windows 8... heh... eights...) And they are free and easy to use too.

The following are three online dictionaries I recommend you use for your English learning. They have audio, IPA transcriptions and some example phrases:

WordReference - If you are starting to learn English from scratch (hopefully a charitable soul out there translated this article for you then :D), this is the dictionary I recommend you use. Here you will find many possible translations for each word you look up (including translations in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Polish, Russian and some others), as well as what I already mentioned.

Something I like about WordReference is that if you search any term, a section in the lower part of the page has a list with threads created on the site's forum, where users have asked the meaning of phrases that use the word you are looking for.

This is the only bilingual online dictionary I use, so that's the one I recommend (if I ever find a better one, I will let you know right here). If your native language is different to the ones offered at WordReference, just Google the phrase "English – (name of your native language here) dictionary", translated in your native language, and you should find an online dictionary with that language combination.

Now, the following dictionaries I recommend are monolingual. That means that all definitions and all information in the dictionary is written in English. Its simple English, but it's English only anyways.

Once you reach a low-intermediate level in English, I think it's a pretty good idea that you start using monolingual dictionaries in English so you can get more language exposure. Although, if you decide to keep using only bilingual dictionaries... I don't think that will affect your English negatively. For instance, Steve Kaufmann only uses bilingual dictionaries and he masters like 10+ languages, so... you are good :D

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary - This is my favorite English dictionary. It has a good appearance, a nice interface, the definitions are written in simple English, and I can usually find any word I need to know here.

Cambridge Learner's Dictionary – This dictionary is similar to the Oxford dictionary, and I like it too. Something interesting about this dictionary is that under the definitions, there is a section where you can check translations in other languages for the word you just searched.

Simple English Wiktionary – Just like Wikipedia has a simple English version, Wiktionary (the free dictionary) also has a simple English version. This dictionary caught my attention because its collaborative, and the definitions are simple.

The thing is that this dictionary doesn't have as many entries as the previous dictionaries, and some entries are incomplete, so I don't recommend that you use this as your primary dictionary.

Urban Dictionary – Recommended for intermediate and advanced learners, Urban Dictionary is your last resource to find the meaning of rare slang, insults, trash talk and other weird and gross words.

Anyone can submit word definitions to Urban Dictionary, and the community decides which definitions are the best ones through votes. Many users provide clear and complete definitions, although others just use the definitions to make jokes. For instance, the most voted definition for 'Death' is "The cure for life" xD... so be careful. The definitions don't have pronunciations in IPA... :( *sniff*

Examples dictionaries

Sometimes, when you look up a word in English, it could happen that you read the definitions and the few example phrases provided there, and even then it's still not clear to you what the word means. In that case it could be useful to read more example phrases that incorporate that little word in question. To search extra examples I recommend the following webistes: – This site has a search engine through which you can search a word in English, the site will compile phrases from other websites (like,,, among man others) that contain your word, and then it will show you a list will all the phrases it could find.

You can copy phrases using the 'Copy' button that appears by the side of each phrase. Also, under the phrases list you will find other modules like "Dictionary", "Web definitions", "Translate", "Images" and even a module where you can search the pronunciation of the word through

Tatoeba – This is a collaborative sentence database where registered users can add and/or translate any sentences they want. If you want to search sentences in English that contain the word you don't understand, and you also want each sentence to have a translation in your native language, Tatoeba will help you out.

When you add your word in the search box select "English" in the "From" drop-down menu, and select your native language on the "To" drop-down menu (or select "English" again for just monolingual phrases). Also, remember to put an equal sign before the word (for instance, =ambidextrous) so that the system only searches for phrases that include the word you indicated, not derivative words.

Linguee – This website works similarly to how Fraze.It works. The difference is that Linguee shows you manual (not mechanical) translations by the side of each phrase. If it's probable that a particular translation has errors, it will have a caution symbol at the beginning to warn you.

Verbix – For the grammarians. This site allows you to find the infinitive version of a conjugated verb, and also see the rest of that verb's conjugations. If you need to see more complete examples of a conjugated verb I recommend you use the previously mentioned sites.

Pronunciation dictionaries

Sometimes it could happen that you are looking up a word in one of those dictionaries, but the word doesn't appear in any of them, and thus, its pronunciation doesn't appear either. In that case you can try looking up your word in an online pronunciation dictionary. To see my recommended pronunciation dictionaries, check out this article.

How to add any of these dictionaries to your Internet browser's search menu

Thanks to the Mycroft Project website you can add all these dictionaries to your browser's search menu. Just input the name of the dictionary in the site's search box, see if on the search results appears the dictionary you are looking for, and install it by clicking on its name:

And these are my recommended web dictionaries, and I hope they are super-useful in your English learning. In a future article I will be looking into good offline dictionaries you can get to complement these web dictionaries. Peace!


Last updated: May 23 of 2015

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