iPad Apps: Best Dictionary and Thesaurus App

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Q: I'm an iPad owner that is overwhelmed by the number of applications available. Where should I start if I'm looking for a good dictionary and thesaurus?

wordbookxl-englishdictionary-thesaurusforipad-ipad-196362.185x185.1271792376.4615.jpgWORDBOOK XL

$2.99 | Version: 4.3 | TranCreative Software

Are you a word gawker? Do trips to the dictionary lead past your original target? Skip today's Starbucks and spend it on an app that's perfect for English language explorers. On the surface, it looks and acts like a dictionary -- one that's powered by Princeton's WordNet project, which specializes in identifying meaningful relations between words. It's the extra treats that'll woo word hounds: bookmarkable favorites, a pad for adding notes to words, links to more- and less-specific neighbors (plus plain ol' synonyms), emailable definitions, and an in-app web browser with built-in links for each term to other online dictionaries. It's a wonderful way to explore your mother (or other) tongue.

WORD WANDER: Cool: most terms come with not only synonyms, but also less- and more-specific lists. Water down azure, for example, and you get blue and blueness. A cozenge is a specific type of swindle, whereas fraud is the more general category of intentional deception. Climbing the definitional tree in this manner from root to lead is a thoroughly fun way for word geeks to boost their word count. Tip: don't like the "Words of the Day" lineup? Tap the refresh icon in the lower-left corner for a new batch.

PROSE CONS: Bummer: some definitions get refused for related words: nobble and hornswoggle both offer as their primary definition: "deprive by deceit." The overlap, which stems from the underlying WordNet archive, means WordBook is probably less reliable as a high-powered premium dictionary and more handy for more mainstream explorations. But don't forget the handy outbound links. Click Google, for example, and you're one link away from the generally reliable Merriam-Webster website.

HONORABLE MENTION: OXFORD AMERICAN DICTIONARY & THESAURUS

$9.99 | Version: 2.0.3 | Handmark

While your favorite word wonk waits for the Oxford English Dictionary to go app (surely that's gonna happen now that they've nixed future printings of the 20-volume beast), check out its nicely equipped junior partner. It's stocked with a full complement of modern and classic finding, browsing, and savoring tools: an integrated dictionary and thesaurus, usage notes and example sentences, "fuzzy" word search (where you enter wildcard characters for letters you're not sure about), sharing (via email, Facebook, and Twitter), and the ability to tag words and see the tags others have applied. All in all, an ambitious offering that, in the non-app world, reading fans wouldn't blink paying 10 bucks for.

HONORABLE MENTION: DICTIONARY.COM

Free | Version: 1.1 | Dictionary.com

Maybe you're not a language lover. You think about your dictionary like any other office supply: there when you need it, nothin' fancy, and as close to free as possible. If that's the case, you'll want to flip open the Dictionary.com app, a just-the-words-ma'am offering, but powered by the respectable wordsmiths at Random House (it's based on their unabridged dictionary, which is paired with a thesaurus). An Internet connection is required for most of the fun frills like audio pronunciations and Word of the Day listings, but the main listings are on tap regardless of where you are. Lookups couldn't be simpler: enter the first few letters of what you're looking for in the search bar and the app shows a list of the dozen or so words that begin that way. If you enter a word it doesn't recognize, the app presents you with similarly spelled words.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

Excerpted from Peter Meyers' Best iPad Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders. Copyright 2010 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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