Four dictionaries every English learner needs

Learn more about dictionaries

by | Jul 15, 2019 | Vocabulary

The word ”dictionary” comes from the Latin ”dictio” (”saying”). In most dictionaries the words are arranged in alphabetical order so that they can be found quickly. However, there are several other types of dictionaries in some of which the words are not even arranged alphabetically!

1. Monolingual Dictionary (in one language)

This is the most commonly used type of dictionaries among English learners. It gives you English definitions for English words plus a lot of more information such as:

  • Pronunciation
  • Word forms
  • Examples
  • Language notes
  • Synonyms/Antonyms
  • Collocations
  • and more

It comes in 3 different levels. Pick the one suitable for your level.

Starter and Elementary Students:


Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Students:

Upper-Intermediate and Advanced Students:

2. Bilingual Dictionary (in two languages)

Bilingual dictionaries translate words from one language to another. If your mother tongue is Persian, for example, it is sometimes a good idea to look up new words in a good English-Persian dictionary to make sure about their meanings. But remember, this kind of dictionary is not suitable for classroom use and should be used only after consulting a monolingual dictionary.

3. Language Activator

Upper Intermediate – Proficiency

Are you looking to increase your English vocabulary? Do you have difficulty deciding on the correct word to use in a particular situation? Then the Longman Activator Thesaurus is the right dictionary for you. It is a book in which words are put into groups with other words that have similar meanings.

For example, do you say “very happy” when you could say “ecstatic“? Do you say “go fast” when you could say “ rush“? This dictionary expands students’ vocabulary effectively, and helps them express their ideas more accurately. It takes you from a key word or basic idea, such as ‘happy’, and shows you more related words or phrases with information on register, context and grammar structures. You’ll learn there sometimes better choices of words to use instead of ‘happy’, for instance: ‘ecstatic’ delighted’ ‘satisfied’, so it is great for preparing for examinations like IELTS.

4. Dictionary of collocations

Upper Intermediate – Proficiency

The Oxford Collocations Dictionary shows which words work together. It helps you express your ideas naturally and is particularly useful for academic and report writing. With this dictionary you learn the most important collocations you need to know. For example:

Collocations of ‘Tea‘:

  • ADJ. fresh There’s some fresh (= just made) tea in the pot. | stewed (= very strong), strong | weak | cold, hot, lukewarm, scalding | milky | white (usually after tea) I’ll have tea, white, no sugar, please. | black | sugary, sweet | (early) morning | decaffeinated | fragrant | China/Chinese, Indian, etc. | Earl Grey, green | fruit, herb/herbal | camomile, jasmine, lemon, mint, etc. | iced

  • QUANT. cup, flask, mug, pot

  • VERB + TEA drink I don’t drink tea. | have | sip, swallow She sipped her hot tea slowly. | take a mouthful/sip of | brew, get (sb), make (sb), mash I’ll make you some tea. | bring sb, dispense (often humorous), ply sb with (humorous), serve (sb), take sb I’ll bring you a cup of tea in a few minutes. John rushed around dispensing tea and cakes to everyone. | pour (sb) (out) Pour me out a cup of tea please. | stir

  • TEA + VERB brew, mash You haven’t let the tea brew long enough. | cool

  • TEA + NOUN pot (also teapot), urn | cosy | service, set a bone china tea service | tray, trolley A lady comes round the office with a tea trolley in the afternoon. | bar, garden, room, shop The hospital tea bar is run by volunteers. | boy (offensive when used of an older man), lady | drinker, drinking | break | party | ceremony

  • PREP. in your ~ Do you take sugar in your tea?

Your Turn!

What is your favourite dictionary? Please leave a comment and add your favourite dictionary to our list.

About the Author

About the Author

CEO and Co-founder of Juice Academy

Mehdi Safavi is a Cambridge certified English teacher (CELTA Grade A), IDP-trained IELTS expert, Sussex Downs College TESOL with 17+ years of teaching & teacher training experience. More about him →

1 Comment

  1. Khadija iftikhar

    Language activator


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