How to use a dictionary


Why would you want to use a dictionary

  • To check to spelling, plural, noun or pas tense of a word. You might also be able to see the synonym or antonym of that word.
  • To get the meaning of that word.
  • To translate a word from one language to another.
  • To help you with the pronunciation of the word.


Different types of dictionaries – what meets your needs?
With different types of dictionaries, I’m not talking about it being a descriptive or prescriptive book or a bilingual dictionary, but rather the different formats and what would work best for you.

Hard copy dictionaries: Some people still prefer to hold a book when they look up a word and it doesn’t use data. You get pocket size school dictionaries that are easy to fit into your schoolbag. 
Online dictionaries: When you search the internet and search for the definition of a word, you will get several sites with a possible definition. Similarly if you want to translate a word. You just search, for example, “translate from English into Zulu�? and you will get translation tools.
Spell check on your computer: If you just want to double check the spelling of a word, you can use the spell check on your computer. When you type, depending on the language you selected for your computer/programme, words that is misspelled or sentences with a grammar error is underlined with green or red. Similarly, if you are looking for a synonym for a word to find an alternative word or to understand the meaning, you can highlight the word, right click and hover over “Synonyms�?.

Tips for looking up words in a dictionary

  • The words in a dictionary are sorted alphabetically. You can look at the word at the top corner of the page (this is called your guide word) to see where in the alphabet you are.
  • Practice finding words to improve your speed.
  • Sometimes two words that sound the same have different spellings and meanings. Try to understand what the word means in the context of the short sentence in the description in order to know which spelling you should use.
  • If you can’t find the word because you are very unsure of the spelling, start with the first letter that you think the word starts with and look down the page.

You might want to read more about how to create a love for reading.