Oxford English dictionary

Imagine: your teacher says “You should buy a good English-English dictionary!” What do you say?

  1. “It’s too expensive.”
  2. “It’s too heavy.”
  3. “It’s too expensive and too heavy.”

Well, now you can say: “I’ve already got one…it’s on my phone!” There is now a huge range of cheap or free English dictionary apps available to use on mobile phones and tablets. You need to think about two things when choosing a dictionary app:

  1. Do you want to access it:
  • via an offline app?

+   The entire dictionary is downloaded to your phone –   Usually not free

  • or online?

+   Usually free –   You have to connect to the internet every time you use it. –   There might be advertisements.   2. Do you want it to be:

  • bilingual (one language translated directly to another e.g. Korean>English)?
  • or monolingual (English>English)?

A bilingual dictionary can be helpful for quick, simple translations but, as your level of English increases, you should use a monolingual dictionary. Monolingual dictionaries have more helpful detailed definitions and give examples in different contexts. Also, use an English learner’s dictionary as opposed to a normal dictionary for native speakers; the definitions will be easier to understand and there are often many features you won’t find in a standard dictionary. Here are four of the best dictionary apps:

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


Platform: Android/iPhone Cost: FREE online / $27 offline app Probably the best dictionary for ESL students – you can access this dictionary online for free but it is a little difficult to view on smaller-screened devices. Although it’s not cheap, if you are serious about improving your English, this is a great investment. It has detailed definitions, British/US pronunciation and many other invaluable features.  

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


Platform: Android/iPhone Cost: FREE online / $16 offline app Very similar to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary – but cheaper!  

Colordict Dicitonary


Platform: Android Cost: FREE offline app – some features require being online This great dictionary app has the ability to download extra monolingual/bilingual dictionaries, a thesaurus and many other helpful utilities. The best free dictionary app for Android devices.  

Meriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary


Platform: iPhone Cost: FREE online / offline app – you can pay for upgrade for more features This is a great free dictionary for iPhone users, although unlike Oxford/Cambridge, it is only in American English.   If you try one of these or have your own favourites, please leave a comment and tell us all about it!