You just found an English word you don’t know.
What do you do?
Well, you carry a big, heavy dictionary with you wherever you go, right?
Oh…you don’t do that?
Well, you could write the word down and look it up later.
You could also use your phone (if you have service!) to go to a dictionary website.
Or…you could download a dictionary app and always have definitions when you need them.
Dictionary apps are convenient (they make things easier for you).
There are many dictionary apps available for iPhone and Android.
Of course, you really only need one.
How to Choose the Right English Dictionary App for You
Which app you choose depends on what you need it to do.
What are you looking for in a dictionary app? Answering the following questions can help you decide:
- Do you need your dictionary to be available without a connection?
- Does it matter if the app takes up a lot of space on your phone?
- Do you need the dictionary to have studying help, or just simple definitions?
- Do you want to be able to hear the words spoken?
- Does it matter if the app looks nice, or do you only care about the definitions?
Let’s say you spend a lot of time reading on the subway, and you don’t have a lot of space left on your phone. In this case, you should get a dictionary app that is small and has an offline option.
See how easy that was?
Besides being convenient for looking up words, dictionary apps can be a great way to add to your vocabulary. Some of them even have special features that help you learn.
You can also learn new words with fun video lessons on FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into language learning experiences.
There are many different types of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it easy to watch and understand native English videos with interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see what it means, learn how to use it, hear it pronounced and more.
For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” then you see this:
You can learn any video’s vocabulary with FluentU’s fun quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The videos are organized by genre and level, so it’s super easy to find the ones that work for you. FluentU also keeps track of your learning, then suggests videos and examples perfect for you.
Study Buddies: The 8 Best Dictionary Apps for English Learners
The Vocabulary.com dictionary app is excellent for English learners because it has very easy-to-understand definitions. The site says it’s “as if your favorite teacher were explaining it to you.” Each definition has explanations of what the word means and also when (and how) you would use it.
Vocabulary.com isn’t just a dictionary—it’s also a vocabulary building app. The app can be customized (made to fit) for the way you learn. It gives you questions for vocabulary words based on how you and millions of other users answered past questions. It even turns learning into a game by letting you earn points.
If you’re looking for a regular dictionary app that still looks nice, Dictionary.com has one for you. This app is easy to use. It works offline, and lets you save words if you’re making a vocabulary list (or just like how they sound!).
The Dictionary.com app has a word of the day. It also comes with very interesting blogs about words (and where they come from) that are written in an easy-to-understand way. There’s a lot to learn from this app!
3. English Dictionary – Offline
Available for: Android
This dictionary app is not as modern-looking as the rest, but it’s a very useful tool for Android users. Of course, it has definitions—and as the name suggests, they are all available offline. But there are a few other options that make this a great app for an English learner.
You can create flashcards in this dictionary, and study them whenever you need to. You can look through a list of grammar lessons and listen to sample sentences. You can play “Hang On, Man,” a Hangman-like game that tests your knowledge of vocabulary.
This app has American and British spellings. So if you’re looking for a British dictionary, this is a good one.
Have you ever had trouble finding a word because you didn’t know how to spell it? No problem—Merriam-Webster lets you search for words by speaking them! This awesome feature is perfect for when you hear a word you don’t understand. You can look it up even if you’re not sure how it’s written.
Merriam-Webster is a well-known dictionary, and has high-quality definitions—all available offline. It lets you save favorites, has a word of the day and keeps track of recent searches you did.
5. Google Translate
Google Translate might not be the kind of dictionary you’re used to, but it can be a very useful tool. It’s perfect for when you need to know which word to use in a sentence. You can also use it to translate a word (or even a sentence) from or into your native language.
This app supports voice-to-text. That means you can say something in English (or another language) and see it turn into text right in front of you. One other awesome feature of Google Translate is image translation: If you see a sign in English and you don’t know what it means, just point your camera at it. Google Translate will tell you what it says! This feature is only available in a few languages right now, but Google is always working to add more.
6. Concise English Dictionary and Thesaurus
Available for: iOS
The word “concise” means “short and to the point.” This dictionary is exactly that. If you find most definitions are too difficult for you to read, this might be the app for you. It has short and easy-to-understand definitions.
It includes a thesaurus, a tool that shows words that are close to or the opposite of a word you look up. There are also references to learn more. So you can look up the word “diesel,” and also see who “Rudolf Diesel” was.
A great resource to use together with the thesaurus on this app is Visual Thesaurus. Visual Thesaurus is an interactive tool that lets you type in and click on words to see other, related words. This is useful for understanding the exact meaning of a word, and also for choosing the exact right word to use in a sentence.
7. Urban Dictionary
Not all the words you hear in public can be found in a dictionary. Sometimes people use made-up words. Sometimes they give different meanings to words when they’re speaking with their friends. This is called “slang.” Urban Dictionary is a dictionary that explains these slang words.
Now, I said that you only need one dictionary app on your phone, but Urban Dictionary is an exception (it’s different). This app is a great second dictionary to have, to go along with your regular dictionary.
Urban Dictionary does have definitions for regular (non-slang) words, but they’re funny ones. For example, a regular dictionary would tell you that a car is a vehicle that people drive. Urban Dictionary tells you that it’s “man’s best companion.” This app is perfect for more advanced English learners who want to understand English-language humor and culture.
Urban Dictionary is created by users. This means it contains some rude language and descriptions. So use it carefully! If you avoid the vulgar (rude) parts, this app can be fantastic for understanding words in a casual setting.
8. Wolfram Words Reference App
Available for: iOS
Wolfram might seem a little scary—it is a more advanced kind of dictionary. But this app has a lot more than just definitions. If you’re a more advanced English learner, you’ll find it useful.
Like the others, this app lets you find the definition of a word. But it also tells you how to use it, where it’s from and the first time it was used. You can find the word used in famous movies or books, and you can see how often it’s used. You can use Wolfram to help you play Scrabble. You can even translate into Braille (the written language used by blind people).
So, have you found your new favorite dictionary app?
Download one of these awesome apps and try it out.
From now on, you’ll always have the meaning of a new word…right in your pocket!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.