Reading & Literacy

A New Kind of Online Dictionary?

By Sean Cavanagh — March 17, 2009 1 min read

I recently came across an intriguing item about a new resource called “Wordnik,” an online dictionary that is supposed to provide users with a wealth of information they would not be able to get by looking up a word in print.

Created by a Chicago lexicographer (someone who writes or compiles a dictionary), Wordnik is designed to provide a wealth of resources on the meaning and even the pronunciation of words. As I understand it from reading the story in the Christian Science Monitor, Wordnik would allow a user to click on a term and receive an audio replay of how it is pronounced, as well as its definition and how it is used in context. The database so far includes 4 billion words. A user can see examples of words used in the same context as the ones they’ve looked up. Other features include a “frequency graph,” a resource that allows viewers to see how often a word has been used in print in a year.

Unfortunately, the link to Wordnik has been down when I’ve tried it. The creators are redirecting people to a blog for now.

To what extent might a tool like Wordnik help K-12 teachers? Would language arts teachers and other educators approach it cautiously? And what would it take for them to embrace Wordnik as a credible, authoritative resource?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.