Beyond Words - Language Blog

Best iPhone Dictionary Apps

While my friend and I were driving through the mountains to a small Appalachian town in southwestern Virginia for their weekly bluegrass jamboree, we passed the turn-off to Green’s Garage. I explained to him that Green’s is a small food cooperative where there are no employees—everything is purchased on the honor system, faith that you’ll leave the correct change in the box or write each item down on your tab. The store is a meeting place of sorts where folks find each other and stand around and talk about the news or town gossip.

That’s when the linguistic conundrum hit—is there a word that means a gathering of individuals who chat and gossip? What I needed was an online dictionary in which you could type in a string of key words of the definition you’re thinking of and then the dictionary would pop out a string of possible words that fit the definition. Each combination of key words would go through an algorithm to find the closest fit. There should be a phone app that does that, which got me researching the available dictionary apps for the iphone.

It turns out that there are quite a few English dictionary apps out there.

  • Mirriam-Webster put out their Collegiate Dictionary for iPhone last year. It contains over 225,000 entries as well as suggestive search, history, wildcard search, similar word search, and pronunciation. However, the app cost $25, which is a little ridiculous in my mind.
  • If you’re willing to swing it, the full American Heritage Dictionary app will set you back $30. With approximately 300,000 terms, it beats out the Mirriam-Webster app, it also features “partial matches,” different font sizes, and an audio pronunciation guide. There is also a bookmarks and search history tab.
  • For significantly less, you can download the Advanced English Dictionary & Thesaurus for $4. The app review fails to mention how many words the dictionary contains or any specific features—just that it has “every feature you would expect from a dictionary application on the iPhone.”
  • In the Thesaurus department, Roget’s has a thesaurus app for $13. The Roget’s II Thesaurus features suggestive search options and bookmarking.
  • The general Thesaurus app costs only $1, and, given the cost, is fairly basic. Enter a search term, get a result.
  • For free, you can download the app which contains 275,000 definitions and 80,000 synonyms. It also features audio pronunciations, similarly spelled words and Word of the Day. As with the website, the app also contains alphabetical indexing, synonyms example sentences, non-standard uses, word origin and history.
  • If you’re in the mood for playing some Scrabble—and cheating at it since I thought looking up words in a dictionary while playing scrabble was illegal—Turon Technologies, Inc., has the app for you: Scrappy, “the ultimate Scrabble dictionary.” While allowing you to look up over 250,000 words from the official SOWPODS tournament list of legal English words, Scrappy also works as a general word browser that can be applied for other word games. For $1, it’s not the biggest investment, but it’s not a dictionary either.

So as far as I can tell, no reverse word search dictionaries exist on the iPhone, which is something some developer should get on. After a quick Google search, I did come up with the OneLook Dictionary Search Reverse Dictionary, but, honestly, after typing in a few concepts, I came up with paltry results.

It looks like our plan of reversing the online OED is still open though. Any developers want to go in on this with us?