There are various online (and printed) monolingual as well as bilingual dictionaries that might be helpful for you, but often you are faced with the problem that you don’t know which ones are reliable reference works and which ones are not. Especially if you want to be able to differentiate finer shades of meaning, you will have to consult a comprehensive dictionary. We have compiled a list with the ones we deem most useful.
Merriam-Webster – This dictionary is our work of reference for US-American English. Not only does it give one or more definitions for the word you are looking up, but it also provides its pronunciation in both American-based phonetic representation and audio format along with example sentences, synonyms, and pieces of information on its origin and etymology.
Learner’s Dictionary – The Learner’s Dictionary is the simplified version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary that is particularly interesting for beginners and intermediate learners as it provides simpler definitions.
Cambridge Dictionary – Another English dictionary which offers both American and British usage, and also gives German translations. Moreover, after having signed up, you can create your own word lists and tests.
The Chambers Dictionary – Beside the dictionary and thesaurus function, this website also provides 18,000 biographies of important personalities. It also contains many archaic and unconventional words.
Macmillan English Dictionary – This is another online US-American dictionary. There are also some games, quizzes, puzzles and other resources such as the “Real Grammar” video series available.
Collins Dictionary – The Collins is quite similar to the Cambridge dictionary: it is bilingual and you can look your English words up in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese and Hindi and vice versa. What is special about this free online dictionary is that it also has a text translation function, but be careful if you use it and double check the translation it gives you.
English Oxford Living Dictionaries – This dictionary is our work of reference for British English. Yet, it is not limited to British English as it also provides US-American equivalents of certain typically British expressions. You can check the spelling and pronunciation of a word or check out synonyms and grammar topics related to the word you are looking up. There is also an ‘explore’ section with interesting articles on word etymologies and quizzes. And if you want to have an overview of the differences between British and US-American spelling, click here.