July 21, 2009

Wordnik – The Real Time Dictionary


If you love words, then you will probably love Wordnik. The site is based on the premise that people want to know about words now – not when dictionary authors deem them acceptable for entry. Look up a word on Wordnik (out of the 1.7 million currently indexed) and it will tell you everything it knows about that word. Often this includes definitions, pronunciations, usage statistics, other forms, examples and related words. As a testament to the popularity of social networking, Wordnik even includes usage examples from Twitter. In addition, Wordnik will show you other words that are used in the same context, as well as images that relate to the word.

All of this information is available on the summary page for each word, but you can also click on the navigation links at the top of the page to see each section in more detail. For example, the summary page showed two tweets using our test word, while the full Twitter page showed about 20. The site is completely free and you don’t need to register to use most of the functions. However, if you want to record a pronunciation or add notes to a word, you will have to register to do that. Wordnik claims to show how people are using language now – and with the integration of real-time social media, this just might be true.

Practical Uses:

  • Find out if you are using the right word in your business document
  • Settle an argument during a Scrabble game
  • Discover which pronunciation of a word is correct
  • Find synonyms to add breadth and depth to your written work

Insider Tips:

  • Register with the site to add notes and pronunciations for individual words
  • Use the handy email link on each page to report typos
  • Check the Flickr stream to discover photos that illustrate your word
  • Use the top navigation links to find additional information about the words that interest you
  • Check out the ‘serendipity’ column to discover new words that you may not know

What we liked:

  • There is a wide range of information available on the site
  • The layout is clear and accessible
  • The Twitter stream is a unique feature
  • The site is free

What we didn’t like:

  • The “words used in the same context” section only seem to work well with common words
  • There are quite a few typos across the site


Company Info:

  • Launched: March 2009
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: Chicago, IL
  • Founded by: Erin McKean, Grant Barrett, Orion Montoya, Tony Tam
  • Web site:


  • Free; ad supported


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