Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2018

Dictionary.com

Clickbait articles, videos distract from definitions on reference site

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Learning
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (8 Reviews)
Common Sense Privacy Evaluation

The privacy evaluation process categorizes edtech tools into the following three tiers:

Use Responsibly

Indicates that the service meets the minimum criteria and more research should be completed prior to use.

Use Caution

Indicates that the service does not clearly define the safeguards to protect student information.

Not Recommended

Indicates that the service does not support encryption or lacks a detailed privacy policy.

Take a look inside

8 images

Pros: Definitions are sourced from reliable dictionary publishers; articles and videos explore how people use and adapt language.

Cons: Tons of ads, some adult content might make this a poor fit for the classroom.

Bottom Line: While there's some useful information here, teachers might look elsewhere for a go-to reference site.

With Dictionary.com, your mileage can vary. The word definitions and crossword features are solid, but there's so much clickbait content to get past that it can be hard to proceed purposefully through those entries. On the word entry pages, help your students compare the definitions that come from various sources, and consider exploring the news articles and historical quotes that feature the same word. You might also use the Word of the Day quizzes as a warm-up or icebreaker to introduce students to unfamiliar words. Subscribe to the site's newsletters featuring their Word of the Day and their latest articles, and consider using this content as the starting point for a classroom discussion of a word or topic that's been in the news. Some of the articles and videos from the Everything After Z section might be a good fit for some students. However, they're even more likely to serve as a point of departure for your own activity or discussion that you lead with your students on subjects like slang, emojis, and memes. There's a lot of iffy content here, but in between you might find some useful fodder for discussing how language is adapted and changed by the people who use it. And for high school classrooms, the iffy content could be completely appropriate and highly engaging.

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Dictionary.com is a reference website offering definitions of English language words alongside a growing collection of word-focused and social media-targeted content like slideshows and articles. Users can access definitions from the website's home page via the search bar at the top, a Browse Dictionary feature at the bottom, or the Word of the Day link. Definition pages feature the word's phonetic pronunciation (with an option to hear the word spoken), the word's part of speech, and a series of definitions from other dictionaries (including those produced by Merriam-Webster and Random House). Some words include an Examples from the Web link that shows the word used in context in recent news stories and in notable quotes. The site also features a Crossword Solver page that lets users search for words that might fit crossword clues, and users can subscribe to daily emails featuring the site's word of the day or its editorial content. 

While this is ostensibly a reference website, Dictionary.com also features an extensive library of articles clearly targeted at social media. This content is called Everything After Z in the site's navigation bar (although take note that it does disappear from the header here and there). In this section, you'll find videos, quizzes, "trending" words featured in the news, and articles on topics including grammar, history, current events, and more. There's also extensive content that explores slang, emojis, acronyms, pop culture, memes, and politics.

Despite this site's generic name, it's more than just a dictionary, but that might not be a good fit for your classroom. Dictionary.com technically features definitions of English words, but those entries are littered with a seemingly endless series of ads and links to articles with clickbait titles (like "We asked her to define 'walkman' and her answer was brilliant"). Some articles and quizzes have solid, kid-friendly content that might genuinely inspire curiosity about language and linguistics, but it's almost impossible to focus on definitions when each page is jammed with links about pop culture, emojis, and memes. Some of these definitions about commonly used terms feel relevant and feature some good information (for example, the entry on "cultural appropriation" linked from the "on fleek" entry), but these entries often include images and entries from social media that feature profanity and sexuality in ways that may be objectionable at school and for sensitive audiences. It's not that bad words don't belong in dictionaries; the challenge with this site is that its content seems geared more toward adults exploring how language is used than toward offering reference information that's suitable for a school-age audience. Some of that information could be thought-provoking for your students, but it's probably best to review the articles and quizzes first before introducing them to your students. Overall, proceed with caution: There's some solid content embedded within this site, but you have to dig for it, and it might not be a good fit for letting your youngest students roam free.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Much of the content is highly shareable, and the articles offer some topical, amusing takes on pop culture and current events.

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

While some articles about language use and origins might spark new insights, the amount of less-serious content undermines the site's credibility as a serious reference.

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

The text-to-speech for words is helpful, but the site doesn't help users browse words or their meanings purposefully. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 8 reviews) (8 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Cynthia C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
McSwain Elementary School
Merced, United States
Dictionary.com is a life saving tool for teachers who need a quick definition and pronunciation of a word.
My overall opinion of dictionary.com is favorable. I appreciate its many features such as being able to hear the word and seeing it used in context. This application is very user friendly and beneficial to students who struggle with word pronunciation. My ELL students love to,use dictionary.com because they can listen to words being pronounced without fear of embarrassment. They can have it repeated as many times as it takes for them to understand the word and pronounce it correctly. It gives them a sense of independence as they do not need to ask a friend or the teacher how to pronounce a word. Or worse yet, just gloss over it.
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