As sad as it sounds but traditional printed dictionaries are close to outlive their usefulness. While they are too small to embrace enough entries, they are rather bulky to take along as well. More than that, if you really want to get one of those big fat printed editions, dispose yourself to come down with your money, as any paper dictionary is … erm ... a tad pricey. And now imagine that you, armed with your expensive pal, find out the text you need to translate describes the cutting-edge concepts your dictionary has no idea about. More's the pity. Sorry, traditionalists, but the era of printing is declining and giving its place to so-called 'digital heirs'. Today, I'd like to share some of my favorite free online dictionaries with you, which move with the times and can be useful for looking up any vocabulary words, be they slang or technical terms. Here we go.
The Macmillan Online Dictionary, in my book, leads the pack when it comes to word definitions. Explanations are short and to the point, capturing all the meanings a word implies. Although the dictionary doesn't provide any background information, there you will find sample phrases, word forms as well as a direct link to a thesaurus entry. Macmillan's key strength is the collection of the most frequent 7500 words that form the core vocabulary of English. The popular words are marked in red and categorized into three frequency bands (three-star words are the most common, while one-star entries less so). Besides, the Macmillan Dictionary blog regularly publishes posts on various language issues, while the 'Open Dictionary' section will let you add your own entries you have come across.
Wordreference is a multilingual dictionary to look up basic words and phrases or clarify some grammatical doubts. Unless the dictionary provides you with the translation of the word you are looking for, it's quite likely that you are not alone and there are others that have asked about its meaning in the Wordreference forum, so there will be the link to that discussion, which may somehow help you out. The dictionary offers extensive vocabulary in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese (from/into English). Other languages like German, Romanian, Czech, Polish, Turkish, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Greek, and Arabic are included as well, but their entries are still in progress.
Proz will allow you to access specialized translation dictionaries and glossaries in almost all the known languages. Actually, the dictionary's search results are provided by users that have been working on that particular term and are fully aware of its meaning. That's why, terms are usually given in a certain context, which greatly facilitates understanding. All words are presented in categories with a huge amount of language options. Unlike other online dictionaries that are useful for basic vocabulary only, Proz comprises specialized terms collected by professional translators, so the quality of the content is really high. If the term you're looking for contains several words, apply quotation marks ” ” or plus sings + to include each word in random order.