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If you’ve got the desire to master the English language, the web is one of the best resources that’s available to you. Knowing the right sites and devoting some time, you can easily take the way you read, speak, and write English to the next level. Even if you’re a native speaker, it doesn’t hurt to improve your grammar every now and then. New words are being invented all the time courtesy of the Web, a prime example being “to google” for something. ;-)

Here, I have listed the resources I have used in the past, and those I’m currently using, for your own benefit.

Online Dictionaries and Thesaurus

visthes

Reference.com – Comes with a dictionary and thesaurus, and is one of my favourite destinations to know the meaning and origin of a particular word. You can use it for free, although there’s a premium version of the site that you can pay for if you need pronounciation help.

The Free Dictionary – Get ready to learn a lot of things at the Free Dictionary site. It’s an awesome resource that has information categorized, helps you with definitions, spelling bee games and lots more. The site also features a start page where you can add your favourite modules and learn things new every day.

Visual Thesaurus – At Visual Thesaurus, you can have a great time exploring words and related terms and play around with them. Includes a pronunciation helper so you need not worry about getting a word wrongly pronounced. Some other features include examples of usages and additional tips to help you from mistakenly using the wrong word. Available as a download, it’s worth paying for.

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Google’s Define Operator – Since people have got used to Googling for everything that you can imagine, it’s not a surprise that they’ve included a little functionality to their search engine. If you want to know the meaning of a word, just type define: followed by the word in the Google search box, and get the definitions instantly on your screen. Example: define: intuitive.

Definr – Definr calls itself an incredibly fast dictionary, and it really lives up to its name. Type in a word, and get the meaning instantly. Advantages – it loads really fast so you rarely have to wait. But it seems to have a smaller database of words when compared to the tools mentioned above.

HowJSay.com – This is a brilliant web 2.0 tool, just type in a word and get it pronounced immediately. It might prove very useful in some situations. This site has a large database of words so you won’t be disappointed.

Offline Dictionaries

wordweb

WordWeb – WordWeb functions as a dictionary tool that comes packed with the features that you expect in a dictionary. Select a word from any application and then press a shortcut to find out its meaning in WordWeb. Something you’ll love is the way its interface has been designed. In case you need synonyms, related terms, etc, just click on the appropriate tab and you’re done. The Pro version includes a few more capabilites, although the free version might be more than enough for your needs.

Merriam Webster – Puts the reputed Merriam Webster Dictionary tool on your PC. Get instant meanings, just a right-click away. Spell Checker included.

Enso Dictionary and Spell Checker – Instantly check the spelling in your text by holding down a hotkey (works universally in Windows). Also included is a dictionary that can be activated using the command ‘define’

Grammar Resources

The BBC Learning English site has loads of information on English grammar, such as FAQs, exercises and quizzes. If you still need more, you can test yourself with the aid of exercises in these sites:

About.com Grammar Quiz, Interactive Grammar Quizzes, Grammar Self Tests, 40+ Resources to improve your Grammar and Punctuation

Dedicated Portals

leng

BBC Learning English – There’s just so many things here that you can retain for learning – quizzes, crosswords, podcasts, radio and many other useful resources all under one internationally-recognized brand. It’s a site that must be bookmarked.

Wordie.Org – This is a social network centred around words. You can list your favourite words and phrases, see who else has your favourite word in their list, browse around their lists, tag them and have lots of fun. Create words you hate, words you find weird, words that make you laugh etc. Within a few minutes of wandering on the site, you’ll find lots of new terms that could improve your vocabulary skills.

A Word A Day

The following sites are updated every day with words that you might have never heard of. You can see their origin, etymology, pronunciation and a lot more. You could subscribe to their newsletters and spending less than a minute every day you can enrich your English vocabulary greatly.

Wordsmith’s A Word A Day – One of the world’s most subscribed-to newsletters.

Other “Word of the Day” sites: Yahoo! Education, Merriam Webster, Oxford’s Word Of the Day.

Podcasts

Podcasts are MP3 files that you can download and play on your computer or your portable media player such as your iPod. I listen to the Grammar’s Girl Podcast quite often. Maybe you want to tune in as well.

eBooks

gutenberg

Project Gutenberg – 20,000+ downloadable books. An awesome project that has rich classic books included. Download and distribute, share the knowledge. You have content here that’ll take you a lot of time to read and quench your thirst for literature. Books from many languages are available, just take your pick from the online Gutenberg catalogue.

There’s quite a lot of Shakespeare stuff as well, Google is your friend.

Foxit Reader – Ok, you download a lot of eBooks in the PDF format, but do you find that your Adobe Reader software slows down your entire computer? Get this alternative instead. It’s called Foxit

Educational Games

Jumble – A game I love to play when I see it in the newspapers every morning. It’s playable online and downloadable.

BingoBinge – Play Scrabble Online

ManyThings, Hangman Flash Game – Play Hangman Online

Blogs

There are of course a few blogs that provide tips on improving your English. You can check these that I found: Daily Writing Tips, The Grammar Vandal, Triangle Grammar Guide.

Start Pages

These are quite great, and can save you loads of time. A Start Page is a page on the web that you can customize with stuff that you need to keep an eye on. For example, my start page contains modules that give me access to a few blogs, top news stories and weather:

spage

Likewise, you too can create a start page with modules like a dictionary, word a day stuff, etc. Try Netvibes or iGoogle. Trust me, if you know how to use them, you’ll find them very helpful and fun to learn with.

Let me know in the comments if you found the post useful.

  1. jeff
    January 6, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    We didn't launch until June 2008 but I wanted to mention VocabSushi. Makeuseof did a post on us, http://www.makeuseof.com/dir/vocabsushi-build-your-vocabulary/. VocabSushi is free and does 2 things better than any other site: adaptive learning (kind of like free rice - get a question right, you get a harder word) and real world contextual examples taken from recent news articles (so you can see how the NYT uses the word 'abstemious' and understand the word more than just through a dictionary definition)

    enjoy!

    Jeff

  2. WeboWord
    May 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

    You forgot WeboWord. :D

    Do try out our WeboWord of the Day! Hope you like it and would to have your feedback too.

    Would love to be a part of your list for the time to come! :)

  3. Andrew
    August 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Hi. I'm one of the hosts of a podcast designed for intermediate to advanced ESL students. University students all over the world listen to this fun talk show style program. You'll have fun listening while being able to dramatically improve your English slang and build your vocabulary. Check it out.

    china232.com

  4. Jan
    April 22, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Hi There,
    I am the host of the Just Vocabulary Podcast. I live in Cape Town, but I am originally from the Netherlands. So I had to improve my vocabulary.
    I started this podcast 2 years ago to offer English as a Second language-students the SAT, GRE and TOEFL words in a short audio file with synonyms, antonyms and example sentences. (http://www.justvocabulary.com).We have online quizzes, and other study tools.
    Would it be possible to add my podcast as a resource?

    I look forward to hear from you,

    Kind Regards,
    Jan

  5. avp
    March 5, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    I hear verblex has a nice igoogle gadget.

  6. Sam
    February 20, 2008 at 11:49 am

    How about freerice.com

  7. Chris
    February 19, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    MapMyWord for iGoogle is a great tool, they have plenty of words, thesauraus, sounds etc., vocabgrapher.com/mapmyword.html

  8. Syahid A.
    February 19, 2008 at 4:57 am

    Wordweb / Enso Words is essential for me. Moreover, there are free!

  9. James Swimmer
    February 19, 2008 at 7:47 am

    These are pretty cool, too.

    manythings.org/vocabulary/

  10. FekketCantenel
    February 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I can't believe you forgot FreeRice.com! Does a charitable vocabulary game not fit the article?

    • FekketCantenel
      February 18, 2008 at 7:17 pm

      Also, wanted to mention that besides that discrepancy, this is a very good list. WordWeb especially is a great resource. Good job.

      • Shankar Ganesh
        February 20, 2008 at 6:57 am

        Thanks. Glad to know people find my post useful.

  11. Mark O'Neill
    February 18, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    If you have a Facebook account, you should install the Scrabulous game. Ever since I started that, I've learned a lot of new words (and also got my rear-end continually whipped by my girlfriend!).

    • Shankar Ganesh
      February 21, 2008 at 8:47 am

      Haha Thanks Mark for the info. I'm going to use it soon.

  12. Mike
    February 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    What about idioMeanings.com for colloquial language?

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