6 Useful English Language Dictionaries Every Learner Should Have
A dictionary is a very useful tool for learning a language. However, if you are just using a bilingual dictionary, you are missing out!
Which other English language dictionaries do best suit your needs? Find out here:
To start with, a bilingual dictionary is very useful, as it explains new vocabulary in both your native language and in English. For a beginner they are a really useful tool!
Once you have mastered the basics, you should also get a monolingual (English – English) dictionary. Here, everything is explained in English. A good monolingual dictionary offers a lot of information on how a word is used in context (usually with an example sentence).
This is especially important in English, as some words can have a lot of different meanings, depending on the context.
Once you’re at pre-intermediate level, it’s a good idea to always check your monolingual dictionary first, and only use your bilingual dictionary when the English explanation wasn’t sufficient or too difficult to understand. It will help your language fluency a lot!
For example: Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
Children’s / school dictionary
If you are looking for an easier monolingual dictionary, you could use a children’s / school dictionary instead!
School or children’s dictionaries offer simpler and shorter word definitions. So instead of getting frustrated, and switching back to your bilingual dictionary, you could try a school dictionary instead!
Maybe you need a lot of specialist vocabulary (for your job, university, personal interest etc.), or are interested in a particular section of the English language. There are a lot of great specialist or technical dictionaries out there, both bilingual and monolingual.
Examples are: Business English dictionary, phrasal verb dictionary, idioms dictionary, financial English dictionary etc. …
Other useful language helpers you should consider:
If your level is at intermediate and above you should invest in a thesaurus!
A thesaurus offers you synonyms (words that have the same or a similar meaning) and sometimes antonyms (words that mean the opposite). A thesaurus is a great help, if you want to spice up your writing to make it more interesting.
A thesaurus doesn’t offer example sentences! So to use it effectively, you need to be aware of the appropriate context. (Which again, you could check in your monolingual dictionary 😉 )
For example: Collins Thesaurus of the English Language (Collins Complete and Unabridged)
Thesaurus with example sentences: Oxford Learner’s Thesaurus: A Dictionary of Synonyms. Wörterbuch (Diccionarios)
A collocation dictionary shows you common word combinations (e.g. ‘heated discussion’) and how to use them. Using a collocation dictionary will help you to write and speak more naturally.
Another, really useful tool is a visual dictionary! There are both monolingual and bilingual versions available.
My favourite is the Macmillan Visual Dictionary. This type of dictionary helps you to find information about a word you can picture, but do not know the word for it, or vice versa (the other way round). It will increase your vocabulary by adding more and more specialist terms you didn’t even know existed before 😉
Visual dictionaries are a great resource!
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it provided you with a useful overview about what different kinds of dictionaries there are.
If you are interested in online dictionaries:
Useful Online Dictionaries for Learners of English