May 01, 2023
best english dictionaries
I reviewed various sources like Reddit discussions, websites like ResearchGate, Goodreads, and Oxford Learner's Dictionaries, and considered the opinions of learners, teachers, and native speakers. There was a good amount of consensus on some of the best English dictionaries for different needs. However, personal preferences and specific requirements may lead to different recommendations for different users.
Have an opinion? Send us proposed edits/additions and we may incorporate them into this article with credit.
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
"Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary. BEST dictionary! I've had it for a long time and recently found a version that works on my kindle"
"I'm currently preparing for a CAE and my teacher adviced me to buy an OALD for expanding my vocabulary."
"The most popular learner's dictionaries are...*Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary*"
"Webster's leans toward American Standard (including some slang and colloquialisms)."
"The best combination of coverage and depth, without going to the ultimate resources like the Oxford English Dictionary, is probably the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. It has a good mixture of modern terminology, and it goes back to the root to give you the original meaning."
"As a personal preference I like Longman and Oxford, but Merriam-Webster is a strong alternative if your primary interest is American English."
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
Other Dictionaries and Resources
"The most popular learner's dictionaries are *Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English*"
"The most popular learner's dictionaries are...*Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners*"
"I recommend using [OneLook](https://onelook.com/), which links you directly to entries from several different dictionary websites."
Etymology and History
Jump to top
Source: "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary | Dictiona..." (from web, elt.oup.com)
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
- A world bestseller for learners and teachers of English
- Over 1,000 new words and meanings
- Fully revised A-Z with up-to-date example sentences
- Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000 keywords, graded by level
- Visual Vocabulary Builder including new illustrations for topic vocabulary
- 90 Homophones notes help distinguish words that sound the same
- Online topic dictionaries fully revised and graded by level
- OPAL (Oxford Phrasal Academic Lexicon) word lists teach academic keywords
- Oxford Speaking Tutor and iSpeaker with pronunciation videos and additional material online
- Oxford Writing Tutor including a NEW section on letters and emails and a NEW spread on Writing an article
- Online iWriter to plan, write and review written work
- Listen to all the headwords, variants and verb forms in both British and American English accents online or on the app
- Listen to example sentences in both British and American English accents on the app
- Updated Oxford Text Checker – go online to check any text against the Oxford 3000, 5000, and OPAL written word lists
- Online teacher resources including lesson plans, video walkthroughs, and classroom and self-study activities
- Oxford 3000 word list provides an essential core vocabulary for learners of English graded by CEFR level, and every Oxford 3000 word in the dictionary is clearly marked with a key symbol
- The Oxford 3000 is the core vocabulary you need up to B2 level (upper intermediate), and the Oxford 5000 adds an extra 2,000 words to take your vocabulary to a higher level (B2 to C1, or upper intermediate to advanced)
- The dictionary also highlights vocabulary from OPAL (Oxford Phrasal Academic Lexicon) to help you learn essential vocabulary for academic writing and speaking
Source: "Can you recommend a comprehensive English dicti..." (from reddit, r/etymology)
The best comprehensive English dictionary for etymology and history of each word is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
- The OED is available online for a monthly subscription cost, and the complete set is likely several volumes printed.
- The first edition (“A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles”) is available free online to anyone.
- The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (two volumes) is an excellent alternative for physical copies.
Other sources with etymological information on English include:
- Wiktionary (though its information is unreliable, so it’s better to verify elsewhere)
- Eric Partridge’s “Origins” is a rare book of etymology that groups words into one word with the same origin.
Source: "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary at Oxford ..." (from web, www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com)
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the world’s bestselling advanced-level dictionary for learners of English
- Has been used by over 100 million English language learners since 1948
- Now in its tenth edition
- Created especially for learners of English, with clear and simple definitions, synonyms, real voice audio, and example sentences showing language in use
The A-Z is integrated with the new Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000 word lists
- Provides core vocabulary that every student needs to learn
- Contains OPAL word lists, which contain the most important vocabulary for academic writing and speaking
More than just a dictionary
OALD Premium package includes extra resources and practice
- iSpeaker and iWriter improve pronunciation, speaking skills, and writing in English
- My Word Lists feature allows creating and testing lists of words to learn
- Offers various resources for teachers to use in the classroom
- An app version of the dictionary is available for offline use
- OALD Premium package includes extra resources and practice
Source: "Which dictionary do I buy? And what is differen..." (from reddit, r/EnglishLearning)
There are multiple dictionaries published by Merriam-Webster and Oxford University Press
- Merriam-Webster publishes 32 English-language dictionaries
- Oxford University Press publishes 87
All publishers have good online editions of their dictionaries
- Online dictionaries are free and convenient
- Paper dictionaries can be faster to use and do not require electricity or internet access
Learner’s dictionaries are best for people learning English as a second or foreign language
- Learner’s dictionaries have a restricted vocabulary and more usage notes
- Most dictionaries are aimed at native speakers
Popular learner’s dictionaries
- Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
- Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
- Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners
- Collins COBUILD
- Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
- Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary
- Many of the dictionaries listed have free online versions
- There is no significant difference between the dictionaries for someone learning English
Source: "What do you think about Oxford Advanced Learner..." (from reddit, r/EnglishLearning)
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD) is recommended for expanding vocabulary for the CAE exam
- Teacher advised buying OALD
- OALD is considered an excellent resource
OALD is available for free online
- Extra stuff and offline access available with paid version
- URL: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/
💭 Looking into
What are the key differences between American Standard and British English Standard?
💭 Looking into
What other resources are available for learning English?
💭 Looking into
What are the characteristics of Webster's dictionary that make it suitable for slang and modern usage?
💭 Looking into
What historical texts and specialized vocabulary does the OED Online include?
💭 Looking into
What are the key features of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary?
Source: "Best English - English dictionary?" (from reddit, r/kindle)
Reddit post on best English-English dictionary for Kindle
- User looking for a better dictionary as a non-native English speaker
Another user recommends the Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary as the BEST dictionary
- Recently found a version that works on Kindle
User asks where to find the Kindle version
- Can find it on the Content and Devices page on Amazon under Dictionaries and User Guides
- Might already have an Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, just need to send it to Kindle
- Can buy the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary on Amazon
- Another user suggests checking the Wikipedia section
- Total words used: 84 words
Source: "Most comprehensive English dictionary online" (from reddit, r/EnglishLearning)
Recommended online English dictionaries:
- OneLook: links you to different dictionaries
- Oxford OALD
- Cambridge CALD
- Merriam-Webster MWLD (for American usage)
- Collins COBUILD (popular, but with confusing material)
- Lexico: reliable for British usage
- Cambridge: reliable for British usage
- Merriam-Webster: reliable for American usage
- American Heritage Dictionary: more linguistically conservative than MW
- Oxford English Dictionary: attempts to catalog all meanings of all words ever used in the English language
- For learners:
Specialized fields, like medical terminology, require specialized dictionaries or lexica, such as:
- Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary
- Black’s Law Dictionary
- Specialized fields, like medical terminology, require specialized dictionaries or lexica, such as:
- WordReference.com: includes dictionary, translations, thesaurus, and forums
- Cambridge Dictionary and Collins Dictionary websites: search multiple dictionaries at once
Source: "What is the Best English Dictionary to buy?" (from reddit, r/books)
Reddit thread on “best English dictionary to buy”
Recommendations vary based on preference for American Standard or British English Standard
- Oxford English leans toward British English
- Webster’s leans toward American Standard and includes slang and colloquialisms
- OED online
- Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (recommended by an English teacher)
- Webster’s for including slang and modern usage of old words
- Collegiate dictionaries for everyday use; Oxford English Dictionary for etymology and history
- Collins Dictionary software edition or hardback Oxford Dictionary of English for in-depth queries
- Google: define:<word>; aggregates definitions from multiple dictionaries
- Android app: ColorDict; aggregates Wikipedia and standard dictionaries
- Recommendations vary based on preference for American Standard or British English Standard
💭 Looking into
What are the best English dictionaries?