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Reading comprehension

How to use a dictionary

Explainer Video

Tutor: Kat


How to use a dictionary

​​In a nutshell 

A dictionary is a book or website full of words arranged in alphabetical order. Dictionaries are used to find the meaning or spelling of words. In this summary, you will learn the features of a dictionary and how to look up words to find their spelling or meaning. 

Features of a dictionary

Alongside each word in a dictionary is the word type, this tells you whether it's a noun, adjective or a verb. Dictionaries also give the meaning of a word and sometimes words have multiple definitions. Some dictionaries also display examples of how the word is used in a sentence. 


Here's how a few entries might appear in a dictionary.

​​book (noun)

1. a written text that can be published in printed or electronic form.

"He wrote a book about plants."

borrow (verb)

1. to get or take something which belongs to someone else but with the intention of returning it.

"They borrowed some costumes for the party."

bright (adjective)

1. giving out or reflecting a lot of light.

"That light bulb is really bright."

2. intelligent or quick-witted.

"She had a bright idea."

Note: Notice how although all these words begin with 'b', they are still in alphabetical order according to their second and third letters.

How to use a dictionary

To find a word in the dictionary look at its first two or three letters. Sometimes words are not spelled the way they sound. If you're unsure how to spell the word you are looking for, start searching under the letter it sounds like it starts with and then progress to other letters if necessary. 


The word photo sounds like it could be spelled with an f like fire or family, but you will not find the word under f in the dictionary. 

What else does photo sound like? It sounds like phone! The spelling ph ​can make a f sound too. 

If you check in the dictionary under p, alongside the ph words you will find the word photo


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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What are dictionaries used for?

What is a dictionary?

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