Common Sense Review
Updated February 2013

Dictionary - Merriam-Webster

No-frills reference isn't highly engaging but gets the job done
Common Sense Rating 3
  • Main menu for Dictionary – Merriam-Webster.
  • Voice recognition for Dictionary – Merriam-Webster.
  • Entry for "eloquent" showing part of speech, pronunciation, and definitions, as well as an audio pronunciation button and favorites star.
  • Bottom of entry for "eloquent" showing origin, first use, synonyms, and antonyms.
  • Entry for "eloquent" in full-screen mode.
Pros
Shorter definitions are better for younger students.
Cons
This dictionary has less functionality than its rivals, and the Word of the Day feature isn't very engaging.
Bottom Line
This comprehensive classic reference has easy-to-read entries, although the voice-recognition system needs work.
Leslie Crenna
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Dictionary - Merriam-Webster is a reference tool with little in the way of built-in engagement. You get no pictures (although the premium version has pictures) and few links within entries.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Some customization and continuity but no information on how to read entries. No dictionary-based games.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. There are no extensions or links to www.m-w.com, and voice recognition is inconsistent.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

It's a dictionary. You can use it to look up words, or to teach students how to look up words. But there are no games or pictures.

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What's It Like?

Dictionary - Merriam-Webster is -- shocker -- an online dictionary. It has an intuitive interface, and concise entries include pronunciation with a "say it" button, part of speech, multiple definitions, origin, first use, synonyms for a range of disciplines, and geographical, biographical, historical, and scientific terms.

The bottom of the main page offers Dictionary, Recent, Favorites, Daily, and More buttons. You can search by tapping the microphone icon and saying a word, or by tapping the magnifying glass to type. Recent keeps track of your search history, and a star at the top of each entry lets you add words to a favorites list. The Daily button gives a word of the day with usage examples and a "Did you know?" section that has dry, factual information rather than engaging and thoughtful analysis. The More button allows users to give feedback, rate the app, post a word to Facebook or Twitter, or send a word in an email.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Entries are a tad more accessible for younger students, with a larger and bolder font and less content than Dictionary.com. Unfortunately, there are no built-in games, no illustrations (except in the premium version), only rarely links within entries, and none of the front matter found in the traditional book format to help students learn how to read entries.

Unlike Dictionary.com, Dictionary - Merriam-Webster's voice recognition offers alternatives, though they're sometimes absurd, like single letters or words or phrases with no entry. Unfortunately, the voice-recognition feature seems to foul up data connections (which it relies on for matches), can hang up searches, and sometimes goes down entirely.

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