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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

The 10 Best Online Dictionaries

The 10 Best Online Dictionaries

The best online dictionaries are spread across the wild, wild, web, using a variety of methods to create something that helps you understand words in manners that are either extremely reliable or wholly unique. Here are ten of the very best online dictionaries.

1. Wiktionary

Founded on the same ideology as encyclopedia project Wikipedia, Wiktionary is another testament to what internet users can create together. It has many of the same downsides as Wikipedia, though, mainly that anyone can edit a page. That ultimately leaves accuracy a bit of a question mark. But, like Wikipedia, Wiktionary has a community of editors determined to make Wiktionary as accurate as possible. Don’t treat this as the be-all end-all source, but it could be one of the best online dictionaries for your needs if used responsibly.

2. Google Dictionary

Google Dictionary has a lot of different languages with features like voice pronunciation, definitions, example sentences, related phrases, related phrases and more. It’s among the most expansive and maybe best online dictionaries, and comes with some very solid brand recognition.

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3. Dictionary.com

The site with the best domain name of all online dictionaries is also one of the most useful. It’s partnered with Ask.com, but don’t hold that association against it. It offers definitions, pronunciations, word origins and world history. It also is responsible for one of the best mobile dictionary apps, hands down.

4. The Free Dictionary

The Free Dictionary offers you the ability to search via words, characters or text. It gives you multiple definitions, a thesaurus, intransitive verbs and voice pronunciations, along with a translator that works with common language like French, German and Greek. It’s not particularly fancy, but you may not be looking for fancy. Overall, The Free Dictionary is among the best online dictionaries.

5. Merriam-Webster Online

One of the most respected print dictionaries also has a website for your convenience. It’s made up of a typical dictionary, a thesaurus, a Spanish to English translation and a medical dictionary. It’s features are relatively sparse but if you’re looking for online dictionaries with good pedigrees Merriam-Webster Online should be of interest to you.

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6. Cambridge Dictionary Online

The Cambridge Dictionary is another well-respected print dictionary with a lot of history behind it that has a web counterpart. The online version is made up of four dictionaries: the Cambridge Dictionary of American English, the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary, the Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs and the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms. It’s a big website that you might want to explore if you’re looking for one of the more serious online dictionaries.

7. Visuwords

This online graphical dictionary creates diagrams between words and concepts to help you understand how they associate. It’s a really unique concept, so if you’re looking for unique Visuwords is one of the best online dictionaries.

8. Wordia

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    Wordia is a fun option for young people to learn vocabulary, made up of word-based learning games along with an interactive video vocabulary. Not something for someone past a middle-school reading level in English, but it has potential for either children or people learning English as a second language.

    9. NetLingo

    Not sure what some of the multitude of acronyms you see online stand for? NetLingo is one of the best online dictionaries that will explain what LOL, FWIW, and more obscure internet lingo mean, if you’re not familiar. I’m in my mid-twenties, and this is still an invaluable resource for me, with all the new terms that pop up every day.

    10. Urban Dictionary

    Laugh if you want, but the Urban Dictionary is a valuable tool if you come across some slang you’re not familiar with. If that’s what you need to learn, this is one of the online dictionaries you’ll benefit most from. Just be wary about going on too many random searches…

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    Featured photo credit: jwyg via flickr.com

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    Matt OKeefe

    Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Published on March 1, 2021

    What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

    What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

    As someone on the Millennial/Generation X cusp, one of my first memories of a news story was the devastating crash of the Challenger space shuttle. I couldn’t process the severity or the specifics of the event at the time, but looking back, the Challenger explosion represents a heartbreaking example of what can happen when systems fail.

    A part of the shuttle known as the O-ring was faulty. People from NASA knew about it well before the disaster, but NASA employees either ignored the problem—writing it off as not that bad—or were ignored when they tried to alert higher-ups about the issue.[1] This is a tragic example of single-loop learning where organizations focus on what they’re doing without reflecting on how or why they’re doing it, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

    Single and Double-Loop Learning

    Chris Argyris describes the difference between single and double-loop learning with a metaphor. A thermostat that turns on and off when it senses a pre-set temperature is akin to single-loop learning. The thermostat being able to reflect on whether or not it should be set to that temperature in the first place would be more like double-loop learning.[2]

    Imagine the difference if NASA would have encouraged and addressed employees’ questions about how they were doing, what they were doing, and whether or not they should be doing it at all—you’ll start to see how an extra layer of questioning and critical thought can help organizations thrive.

    Single Loop Learning

    Single-loop learning is when planning leads to action, which leads to reflection on those actions and then back to planning, action, and more reflection. Now, you might think that because reflection is involved, single-loop learning would be an effective organizational model. However, because there isn’t room for critical questions that ask why actions are being taken, problems begin to bubble up.

    The Double Bind

    When organizations are operating in single-loop learning, they get stuck in what Argyris calls the Double Bind. Because there’s no value placed on questioning why the team is doing something, team members are either punished for speaking up or punished for not speaking up if something goes wrong down the line.

    Primary Inhibiting Loop

    When an organization is stuck in single-loop learning, the double bind leads to what Argyris calls the primary inhibiting loop. Real learning and growth are inhibited because team members withhold information from each other. This withholding leads to distrust and is difficult to remedy because even if employees attempt to become more forthcoming, lack of trust sours interactions.

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    Secondary Inhibiting Loop

    Because information is being withheld, team members play unconscious games (not the fun kind) to protect each other’s feelings. For example, I might try to distract my colleagues from worrying about a problem in our plan by shifting the focus to another project we’re working on that’s going better.

    When you’re stuck in single-loop learning, the organization does whatever it can to continue taking action after action instead of stopping to truly reassess the bigger picture. This leads team members to hide information from each other, which causes distrust and behaviors that try to mask flaws in the organization’s structures and systems.

    Double Loop Learning in Organizations

    A common misconception is that the opposite of single-loop learning involves focusing primarily on people’s feelings and allowing employees to manage themselves. However, the solution for single-loop learning is not about doing the opposite. It’s about adding an extra later of critical analysis—double-loop learning.

    With double-loop learning, questioning why the organization is doing what it’s doing is an organizational value. Instead of moving from planning to action to reflection and back to planning, in double-loop learning, people are encouraged to reflect on why they’re doing what they’re doing. This can help the organization take a step back and reconsider what’s best for all stakeholders instead of being stuck acting and reacting.

    Ultimately, double-loop learning gives team members the time, space, and systems to ask tough questions and have them addressed in meaningful ways.

    Let’s think back to the Challenger disaster. If NASA had created an organization that uses double-loop learning, employees wouldn’t have felt compelled to stay silent, and the employees who did speak up would have influenced the process enough to reconsider the timeline and develop a solution for the O-ring problem.

    Single-loop learning is like a train with no breaks. Double-loop learning provides the extra layer of critical thought that allows the organization to stop and pivot when that’s what’s required.

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    Think back to Argyris’ thermostat metaphor. Instead of just reacting—turning on and off when it detects a certain temperature—double-loop learning invites the thermostat to reconsider why it’s doing what it’s doing and how it might do it better.

    How to Shift to Double Loop Learning

    So, how can organizations shift from single to double-loop learning?

    1. Stakeholders Must Level With Each Other

    The first step to shifting from single to double-loop learning is for all stakeholders to sit down and talk openly about their expectations, values, and goals. These sessions should be led by organizational experts to ensure that old single-loop learning habits of distrust, withholding, and game-playing don’t keep people stuck in single-loop learning.

    One of the keys to team members leveling with each other is listening. Focus on creating an environment where everyone can speak up without fear of judgment or punishment.

    2. Create Benchmarks for Lasting Growth and Change

    Old habits die hard, and single-loop learning is no different. If systems, check-ins, benchmarks, and periodic times to reflect and reset aren’t put into place, old habits of withholding and mistrust will likely creep back in. You can guard against this by making it a norm to measure, assess, and improve how new double-loop learning systems are being implemented over time.

    3. Reward Risk-Taking and Critical Feedback

    Double-loop learning requires squeaky wheels. You have to create a culture that rewards criticism, risk-taking, and reflecting on the system as a whole and the reasons the organization does what it does. Think big picture stuff.

    This is about walking the walk. It’s one thing to tell employees to speak up and give their feedback, it’s another thing entirely to have systems in place that make employees feel safe enough to do so.

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    Kimberly Scott’s Radical Candor comes to mind as one way to start shifting to a more open and critical environment. Radical Candor is a system that incentivizes employees and managers to start speaking up about things they used to sweep under the rug. It’s a roadmap and a way to assess and improve open and reflective feedback between all stakeholders.

    Double Loop Learning for Individuals

    Double-loop learning isn’t only for organizations. You can also apply Argyris’ ideas to your learning.[3]

    Here’s how that might look:

    1. Level With Yourself and Seek Accountability

    Instead of being stuck in a single-loop learning cycle, break out by adding another layer of critical reflection. Why are you learning what you’re learning? Is it important? Is there another way? Think big picture again.

    Become clear on what you want to learn and how you’re currently trying to learn it. Then, open yourself up to others to keep yourself accountable. Leave the door open to completely shift major details about your learning goals.

    2. Create Benchmarks and Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

    Just as with organizations, individuals also need to create goals and continuously reflect on whether or not they’re moving toward double-loop learning. Schedule times to meet with the people keeping you accountable for your learning plan. Then, ask yourself whether or not your learning goals still make sense.

    Ask big picture questions. Are you in the right environment to learn? Is your learning plan working? Do you need to change course altogether or shift your goals entirely? If it’s double-loop learning, you can’t be afraid to ask questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing and change course when the need arises.

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    3. Value Risk-Taking and Accept Criticism

    You’re also going to need to shift your mindset from simply learning and reflecting to accepting criticism, being critical of yourself as a learner, and taking risks and experiencing discomfort as you ask big questions and make drastic alterations to your learning plan over time.

    Instead of concerning yourself with grades and GPAs, double-loop learning would mean you’re allowing yourself time to step back and analyze why you’re learning what you’re learning, if there’s a better way, and even whether or not you should be on that learning trajectory in the first place.

    Final Thoughts

    Think back to the thermostat example. Doing homework, handing it in, and then receiving a grade is single-loop learning. Thinking about why you’re doing any of that and making appropriate changes that align with your learning goals shifts you into double-loop learning, and that’s a great way to see the bigger picture and get the best results.

    Learning and reflection are two of the most important things when it comes to organizational or personal development. This is why double-loop learning is key if you want yourself or your organization to succeed.

    More Tips on Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Cherrydeck via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] NPR: Challenger: What Went Wrong
    [2] Harvard Business Review: Double Loop Learning in Organizations
    [3] Journal of Advanced Learning: The role of reflection in single and double-loop learning

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