Online Etymology Dictionaries and Etymology Deepen understanding

Less than three decades ago, looking up the definition of a word brought images of leafing through a bedraggled and dog-eared book from the shelf in the back of a classroom, or pulling a dusty tome with a copyright date from your parent’s generation from a top shelf in the living room. Sometimes, new and evolved words were difficult, or even impossible, to find. Online dictionaries have revolutionized the experience of looking up the definition of a word. They provide in-depth, and current explanations that include the etymology, or explanation, of the development of the word over time, as well as its meaning.

In Depth Definitions

A digital source can provide all that is found in a traditional print dictionary and more with multiple meanings as well as synonyms and antonyms. The phonetic representation is also supplied, but an online dictionary allows you to actually listen to the proper pronunciation. It is often possible to actually see and/or hear the word used properly in a sentence. Last, when working on a research project, many of the online dictionaries supply citations in various formats for references.


Often, the etymology of a word found in an online dictionary plays a role in providing insight into the origins of a word, which can deepen understanding. Etymology looks at the first known use of the word as well as the word that it is derived from. For instance, courage is based on the Latin word cor, meaning heart, suggesting it is a characteristic that comes from the heart.

Current and Changing Etymology

Any language is a constantly evolving entity. Words become obsolete. Words also shift classifications, for example, a word that was once a noun, like text, can become a verb. New words that were once informal slang can earn prestige and rank as an official word. This means that the etymology of a word is also evolving. It would be nearly impossible, not to mention costly, to provide a hard copy dictionary that could accommodate these fast-paced changes in the same manner as an online dictionary. This is especially true for specialized dictionaries that focus on one area like computer science or medicine.

Online definition dictionaries provide a speedy reference with etymologies that accommodate today’s constantly progressing digital world.

Word of the day


To move by persuasion or argument; to prevail on; to influence by motives. ...