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There used to be a time when you would reach for the dictionary, knock the dust off it, then run your finger down the page while looking up a mysterious word. But these days, the concept of the print dictionary has fallen by the wayside with dictionary websites and modern desktop alternatives. Desktop program WordWeb can look up words in mere seconds, as well as provide you with plenty of useful related information.
WordWeb it is free for 30 days, and it continues to be free—provided you meet the company's environmental requirements. In short, you can continue to use WordWeb for free if you take two or fewer commercial flights every year. Any more than that and you need to buy the $19 Pro version of the software. Quite how the company thinks they can enforce such a rule, I have no idea. Nevertheless, it makes for a unique software license.
When you install the software (or use the portable version available if you check the option in the advanced settings during installation), just start it up and you will be presented with a simple interface in which you can type in the word you are looking for. Or if you are linguistically inclined one day, you can opt for a random word and learn some interesting new words such as oleaginous, patristics, and skepful.
When WordWeb shows you a word, not only will you see the definition, but you will also get the text pronunciation, the audio pronunciation, and then more information which makes this piece of software a crossword puzzle lover's dream – synonyms, similar words, links to the word on dictionary websites such as Wiktionary (and Wikipedia so you can see the word in better context), and related nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives.
Alas, the audio pronunciations are more often than not completely wrong.Interesting as these mispronunciations are, you'd be walking on thin ice if you used any of them in public. The pronunciations are read out by a female-sounding computer voice, and although it gets a lot right, it also gets a lot wrong. Put through words like anesthetist, prioritizing, unconscientiously, unhygenic, and unrecognizable. Then you'll see what I mean. WordWeb also has a website where you can see the word, its definitions, and related information online. So you can link to words you want to remember, as well as use the service if you happen to be on someone else's computer.
WordWeb isn't the only desktop dictionaryThe Sage and Lingoes are both perfectly good—but WordWeb does do its job remarkably well in an easy-to-use user interface. The audio pronunciations could do with a bit of a polish but apart from that, it's a nice little app for all the budding wordsmiths out there.
Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.
The days of consulting a worn dog-eared print dictionary seem to be behind us now. Nice desktop alternatives such as WordWeb make us miss them a little less.
- Links directly to Wikipedia and other sites, so you can view the word there in context
- Text pronunciations for over 65,000 words
- Ideal crossword companion
- Some audio pronunciations are inaccurate
- The terms of the free license are unusual and somewhat off-putting