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websters dictionaryA dictionary used to be a heavy book, difficult to lug around. If you came across a word you didn’t quite understand, you might have just tried to figure out what it means based on the context. Then the Internet came along, and dictionaries went online.

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:

websters dictionary

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:

best desktop dictionary

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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:

best desktop dictionary

There’s a full-screen mode, too:

best desktop dictionary

And you can control the size of the text:

best desktop dictionary software

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:

best desktop dictionary software

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:

best desktop dictionary software

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:

websters dictionary

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.

Final Thoughts

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?

  1. Little Sister
    August 27, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Is there an offline MW dictionary program for regular PCs too?

    (I mean, besides the *other* offline edition.) ;-)

    I still use MS Works' built-in Encarta dictionary. Kind of buzzword-heavy but then again, so is modern language, apparently..."Lol" ^_^

    • Erez Zukerman
      August 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm

      Yes, there is one:

      (Comes with a CD)

  2. Anonymous
    August 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I just uninstalled it few days back the reason was that the audio thingy requires internet connection too. It really sucks (not the app) that you've to connect to internet for listening to pronounciation I miss my old N73 where I was able to download offline audio files. :( :(

    • Anonymous
      August 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

      I think downloading audio files for the entire dictionary would take up a ton of space, actually. Do you know how much space it took on the N73? Also, what dictionary app was that?

      • Anonymous
        August 20, 2011 at 11:38 am

        roughly around 120mb and the application name was MSDICT ... well atleast that much space you can spare on your 4gb memory card.. :)

        • Anonymous
          August 20, 2011 at 11:39 am

          ... or 16gb, in my case. ;) That's true. Who knows -- maybe one day they'll enable something like this!

        • Anonymous
          August 20, 2011 at 11:42 am

          in my android I got 8gb :D
          4gb was back on my N73..

          yeah I wish somebody would do so... android is totally internet based phone half of the application wont work without you having a stable internet connection :)

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