There are several English-English dictionaries online; in addition to Wiktionary and Tatoeba (kind of) and no doubt other folk-edited dictionaries, there seem to be some curated ones: Cambridge, Collins, Merriam-Webster, Oxford and presumably others. There are also some like dictionary.com, with which I am less familiar.

My use cases are typically as follows:

  • Figure out what a word means.
  • Find out the etymology of a word.
  • Confirm the spelling of a word.
  • Understand an idiom.
  • I have a mild preference for British English when it comes to spelling and pronunciation.

My passive vocabulary is pretty good, so I mostly check more obscure words. Significant part of my writing in English is academic, so I would prefer a reliable source with confirmed information.

Which online English dictionary is a good first choice for me?

  • Dictionary.com caters for American pronunciations; if you want British ones, you're probably better of with Oxford.
    – Miztli
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 20:05
  • @Miztli Thanks. That would be a good start for an answer.
    – Tommi
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


Etymology of a word is usually a separate concern from the others you mention. Most people want to know how to use a word, not how it was used hundreds years ago. Because of that most dictionaries have very limited, if any etymology content. That's why I would rather suggest to use one dictionary for modern use and another for etymology.

For modern use of British English there are two standards, Cambridge and Oxford. No one can tell you which one is better. British English has many dialects and variations, those two dictionaries are kind of two competing standards built upon the authority of the two most famous British universities. Choose one or use both if you like.

The most widely used etymology dictionary these days is probably Online Etymology Dictionary.

  • In your experience, is the coverage of idioms and obscure vocabulary roughly equal among Cambridge and Oxford? (Also +1.)
    – Tommi
    Commented May 12, 2019 at 13:10

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