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Dictionaries, Etc

The number of English dictionaries and thesauri on the World Wide Web now exceeds 75, and continues to grow. Some good neologism-specific reference sites are also appearing. The list below includes only the best, as determined by ENS’s members. The criteria include ease of use, depth of vocabulary, value (from the standpoint of neology), and general visual appeal. (Excluded from this list are translation sites, synonym- or antonym-specific resources, rhyming sites, and other ancillary language websites.)

Consistent with other pages in this Neologics section, we’ve assigned ratings from “5” (very best) down to “1”. Keep in mind we’ve tossed out the “0’s”, so even the 1’s are worth considering (the review team tossed over 50 sites onto the “0” pile). Just click the site’s title to go there.




American Heritage Dictionary online


Bartleby.com brings this fine dictionary to your fingertips, complete. Most entries have audio-pronunciation as well. This is demoted to a “4” due to excessive clicks and ads (who wants a fungal treatment link when searching for ballet?)

Cambridge Dictionaries Online


This got high marks due to flexibility of flipping from one Cambridge sourcebook to another, without re-entering the word, but was marked down for skimpy definitions and an obvious commercial intent.



This may be the most-used quick lookup on the Web, and has great features (quick-switch to thesaurus, encyclopedia, or web; uncluttered homepage). It misses a “5” due to banner ads and required membership for upgrade features. The thesaurus is among the Internet’s best!



It’s a dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, encyclopedia, translator, and more. And it’s big (100,000 entries). Plus, download special software to be able to click any word on the Web for definitions. Why a “3”? Ads, ads, and more ads.

Merriam-Webster Online


While the M-W Collegiate Dictionary is among the best, this online version (dictionary and thesaurus) has a cluttered homepage and skimpy results. There are better ones out there.

One Look Dictionary


An online dictionary-on-hormones, just enter a word (or only the part you can spell, using their “wild card” feature) and get multiple dictionary, etymology, translation, rhyming, etc sources. Easy switching among choices and clean front page, but ( ) because of subsequent web ads.

open dictionary


A hugely ambitious site designed to tap “every language, with meanings, etymologies, and pronunciationsm,” this has unique potential for neologists. A refreshingly plain site, too.

Oxford English Dictionary


The ( ) is because the OED is subscription-based, not free. But to leave the Cadillac out of the lineup would be unthinkable. This is the definitive King (pun intended), adding 5,000+ neologisms to the recent 20-volume print edition. If you subscribe, you’re livin’ large lexicographically.



Switch from dictionary to thesaurus to enclyclopedia and more. Great feature for neologism creation: enter only the “starts with” or “ends with” part and get a listing of possibilities. Web ads reasonably controlled.

the Phrontistery


This giddy-on-English website, a joy to visit, includes the International House of Logorrhea (“over 15,500 extremely rare, nearly obsolete, or just nutty” words and definitions) to extend your dictionary reach.



IREN reviewers included this because so much of our new lexicon derives from computers and the Internet. This specialized dictionary defines cyberwords only, and (alas) puts you face to face with vendors.



Built entirely by people like you, this open source online companion to Wikipedia covers all languages. Since it’s user-driven and editable by anyone, it’s responsive to the newborn words you care about. Slight knock: not as reliable or authoritative (yet...) as, say, the Oxford.



So chockfull of ads, it’s hard to find the field to insert your search word. Another hit: too many clicks to get to the goal. It’s also a thesaurus, wants to be more (translator, nymlator, etc), but fails to deliver (just gives links to other sources). Barely made the cut.