How to Use Your Mac’s Dictionary to Look Up Words Quickly
Need to quickly get the definition of a word? Here’s how to use the built-in Dictionary app on your Mac.
Every once in a while, you may come across a word that’s not in your vocabulary while browsing the web, reading an eBook, or chatting with someone on your Mac. It usually takes a while to open a new tab and search for the word in Google or use a third-party app. So save a few clicks by using your Mac’s built-in dictionary.
Here’s how to use the built-in dictionary on your Mac.
Look up words quickly with your Mac’s dictionary
You can use your Mac’s built-in dictionary to quickly look up words and phrases while browsing the web or working in apps. Here’s how:
- Three-finger tap (or Ctrl-click) a word or phrase. Sometimes you may need to select it first.
- To select To look for.
- In the Find window, you can do any of the following:
- See the full definition: Click on Continued at the end of a definition to expand it and see it in full.
- See the word in the dictionary: Scroll down and click See in the dictionary to open the Dictionary app.
- Change dictionary sources: To select Configure dictionaries to open the dictionary preferences window and edit it (more info below).
- Get additional information: When available, other categories such as Siri knowledge, Websites suggested by Siri, Mapsand Movies will appear. Simply click on the tab or swipe left or right.
Get definitions from more sources in the Dictionary app
You can also open the Dictionary app directly to see definitions from various sources:
- Open the dictionary app from the Applications folder or the Launchpad.
- Type a word in the search field.
- Select a word from the search results on the left side of the window.
- Click on All to display definitions from all your selected dictionary sources. You can also choose a specific category, like Apple, ThesaurusWhere Wikipediato selectively display their results.
Here are some other things you can do in the Dictionary app:
- See other definitions: You can hover your mouse over a word in the Dictionary app to see its definition. You can also click on related words, which are highlighted in blue, to see their definition.
- To return to: Click it Snapback an orange back arrow on the search field, to return to the first word searched.
- Browse the definitions displayed: Swipe left or right with two fingers on the trackpad to move between previously displayed definitions. Otherwise, click the Previous ( Where Next (>) toolbar buttons.
- Change text size: Click the font size buttons in the toolbar to change the font size of the dictionary.
If you can’t find results on your app, the word is either limited by your Screen Time settings (more on that later) or isn’t covered by your selected sources. You can use Spotlight to do a quick search instead.
Customize your dictionary sources
In the Dictionary app, click Dictionary > Preferences. Add or remove dictionary sources by checking and unchecking them. You can also rearrange them by dragging them on top of each other. Some sources have additional options, such as displaying pronunciations and the language you want Wikipedia results to be in.
The sources you select here will also define the sources your Mac will use when you use the definition search.
Hide explicit content
You can choose to restrict access to secular or explicit content in your dictionary using Screen Time. To do this:
- Go to System Preferences > Screen Time.
- To select Content and Privacy in the sidebar.
- Click on Light upthen uncheck Explicit language in Siri and dictionary.
Definitions at your fingertips
With the Dictionary app, you can quickly look up the definition of a word from a variety of sources anywhere on your Mac. Plus, the dictionary is powered by Siri, allowing the app to give you results beyond definitions. Instead, you get richer, more relevant search results, all in one place.
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