Proofreading Resources: Online Dictionaries

Proofreading Resources: Online Dictionaries

  • Nov 21, 2023
  • 4 min read

Online dictionaries are an essential tool for proofreaders and editors. As a proofreader, you’re probably very proud of your vocabulary – but we all need to look up words now and then!

To save yourself some time, it pays to bookmark a few online dictionaries. But which are the best online dictionaries for proofreaders? Keep reading to find out! In this blog post, we’ll share our top recommendations.

Why Are Online Dictionaries Useful for Proofreaders?

Before we dive into our favorites, let’s take a look at the reasons why proofreaders should never be without one (or two, or three, or four). Aside from the obvious – they help you catch potential spelling and grammar errors – online dictionaries:

  • Are accessible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection (so you can look up words quickly and efficiently without needing to lug around a physical dictionary)
  • Typically include a wider range of words than physical dictionaries (including newer and more technical or industry-specific terms)
  • Usually provide information about a word’s etymology and historical usage (helping to clarify meaning)
  • Frequently include example sentences (to provide context)
  • Often offer synonyms and antonyms (allowing you to find alternative words that might better suit the situation)
  • Cover spelling and usage variations by dialect (for example, British, American, and Australian English)

What Is the Best Free Online Dictionary?

Of the major print dictionaries available online, Cambridge and Merriam-Webster stand out:

  • The online Cambridge Dictionary covers British and American English, with definitions, examples, pronunciations, idioms, synonyms, and grammar advice all present.
  • Merriam-Webster, meanwhile, is the leading American English dictionary. In addition, it features medical and legal dictionaries for all your jargon needs.

As for dedicated online dictionaries, top choices include the and the Free Dictionary:

  • – as well as having an enviable domain name – is easy to use and offers an excellent thesaurus.
  • The Free Dictionary, a standard English dictionary and thesaurus, also features medical, legal, and financial dictionaries.

One other online dictionary of note is the Collins Dictionary, which also includes a thesaurus and grammar guides.

What Is the Best Subscription Dictionary?

You may have noticed the absence of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) among our top online resources. That’s because the OED is only available online with a subscription. However, it remains the foremost English historical dictionary, so it’s worth the price for dedicated logophiles!

For those working with Australian English, the Macquarie Dictionary is a great (subscription-based) resource. Again, though, it requires a subscription to use.

What Other Types of Dictionary Are There?

Legal Dictionaries

Legalese can be difficult to penetrate. If you proofread legal writing, the following dictionaries will help:

Scientific and Medical Dictionaries

For proofreading scientific and medical writing, you may find the following sites useful:

Other Dictionaries

Other online dictionaries you may want to use include:

Are there any online dictionaries you think we should include in this list? If so, leave a comment below to let us know. 

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Join the Conversation

William Daley says:
March 19, 2021 at 7:04PM
This is an excellent resource, thank you so much for including it with the Proofreading Course!
Fay Wharton says:
March 30, 2021 at 9:02PM
an excellent tool that will facilitate effective proofreading! very glad it is included. thanks.

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