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The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

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These are answers to the most frequently asked questions about Cambridge Dictionaries Online. If you have a question which isn't in this list, or if the answer given does not satisfy you, please contact us with your question.

  1. Why isn't this word in your dictionary?

    Our online dictionaries are simply electronic versions of our paper dictionaries. Obviously with paper dictionaries space is a major issue and you have to think very carefully which of the hundreds of thousands of words in the English language you are going to include. Our dictionaries are aimed primarily at learners of English, and so our policy is to concentrate on describing and reflecting as accurately as possible common contemporary English usage. Hence, we do not include particularly uncommon words or words whose use is restricted to a particular field of activity. Inclusion policy is based largely, but not exclusively, on a word's frequency in the Cambridge International Corpus, our 600-million-word database of contemporary English text.

    Size is far less of an issue online, and we could include as many words as we wanted. However, as this is a completely free service, we do not currently have the resources available to add any extra words to our online database.

  2. What does this word mean?

    See above for our inclusion policy. Please note, if you cannot find a word you're looking for, we will probably not be able to tell you its meaning by email.

  3. What is the origin of this word?

    We do not offer etymology (word origins) in our dictionary, as we prefer to focus our resources on describing and reflecting contemporary English usage. Again, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to tell you a word's origin by email.

  4. Do you have an online thesaurus?

    For most entries, we offer alternative words and phrases in our topics feature. When you look up a word in a topic, you'll see other entries in that topic on the right-hand side - a group of words that are related to the word you looked up. The words in the cloud are bigger or smaller depending on how frequently they are used.

  5. How can I find out a word's pronunciation?

    In all entries in the dictionary, you will see speaker icons (Click to hear the UK pronunciation of this word Click to hear the US pronunciation of this word) following the part of speech. Clicking these will play a recording of the word spoken by an American (blue icon) and British (red icon) speaker. In addition, all entries in the dictionary include phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

    If you cannot play the pronunciations, you need to install Adobe® Flash. Please make sure you have the following settings in your browser: (a) Allow sites to run JavaScript (b) Allow sites to run the Flash plug-in

  6. What do the phonetic symbols mean?

    You can see a full list of phonetic symbols used in our dictionaries, with examples of their pronunciation.

  7. What do the codes in the dictionary entries mean?

    You can see a full list of grammar codes used in our dictionaries, with explanations of what they mean.

  8. What do sb and sth in entries mean?

    sb means somebody, and sth means something.

  9. What do the A1, B2, C1, etc. labels mean?

    These symbols show the English Profile level of a word, phrase or meaning, which indicates the level when learners know this meaning.

    A1 Beginner

    A2 Elementary

    B1 Intermediate

    B2 Upper-Intermediate

    C1 Advanced

    C2 Proficiency

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