So now, if you had Internet access, you were good to go. Then mobile devices started landing in people’s pockets, making online dictionaries even more accessible. But data connections (Wi-Fi or 3G) can be flaky, and there are situations when you just can’t go online – say, when you’re reading on an airplane. That’s when an app like Merriam-Webster for Android comes in handy.
The app’s main interface looks like this:
Note that for the purposes of this review, I put my phone into Flight Mode, so there’s no wireless connectivity. Some of the features do require connectivity, but the most important one doesn’t. Let’s start with what works with no connectivity at all:
That’s dictionary lookup, with live suggestions. Much like when using a regular dictionary, you can see words that are next to the word you just typed. When you see the word you want to look up, just tap it and get this:
There’s a full-screen mode, too:
And you can control the size of the text:
Merriam-Webster is aimed at native English speakers with a high literacy level. You get a complete, lengthy definition, including examples, the word’s derivation, its synonyms, and even a synonym study:
So you’re essentially getting the entire Merriam Webster’s dictionary for free, right on your mobile device, for offline use whenever you need a quick definition. That’s a pretty fantastic deal.
Features Requiring Connectivity
While the app’s most important feature can be used when offline, several other goodies do require you to be online. Here’s the first thing you’ll notice when using the app with a connected device:
Ads! Yay, what joy! You get context-sensitive ads right in your dictionary. Okay, so maybe that’s not such an awesome feature, but there are ways to disable in-app ads, such as AdFree Android.
Now let’s focus on some of the positive things that come with connectivity. For one, the red little speaker icon starts working. When you tap it, it turns into a spinner, waits a moment while the device downloads a sound file, and then plays the word as pronounced by a native speaker. Very handy, and far better than the written pronunciation guide.
Another nice feature that requires connectivity is the Daily Word:
This is a very comprehensive definition, and it also includes an interesting Did you know? section at the end:
This section is only available via the Daily Word. So sure, it’s nerdy, but if you’re into language, it is a very nice and authoritative resource for some vocabulary trivia.
The last feature I wanted to share is the Recent Definitions list:
At first glance it looks like a simple list of all the definitions you’ve looked up. But the Edit Recent Searches button reveals this:
You can selectively go over your history and delete just certain words. So you can remove just the small words, and leave all the big, complicated words, so that anybody looking at your search history will marvel at your amazing vocabulary. Or, in a more plausible scenario, you might want to use this feature to remove any NSFW or rude words you may have looked up, so they won’t pop up in the history list when you show this app to your grandmother or boss.
This is a simple, simple app. There’s no widget, no complex automation, and not much in the way of bells and whistles. But if you find yourself in need of a good dictionary now and then, Merriam-Webster for Android is one solid solution. Do you prefer another dictionary app? If so, which one and why?
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