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This user’s guide contains all you need to know about using the site.
This guide describes all the features you will encounter as you explore the content. To find help on a specific topic, click on the headings in the Table of Contents on the left, or use your browser’s find facility. Alternatively, you may prefer to read this guide in full as a narrative introduction to the site. You can access this guide at any time by clicking the Help link in the right part of the site.
A number of other resources are available to users of the Oxford Dictionaries Pro web site:
• For general information about the Encyclopedia of Law, see the About US section
• Our FAQs contain answers to your most frequent editorial, customer service, and technical questions.
• For an update on the most recent developments on the site, see What’s new. If, after consulting these pages, you still have further comments, questions, or technical queries about using the site, contact us.
Across the top of the screen is the site header which contains links to administrative and information resources. These appear on every page.
• About links to information about the web site
• What’s New is information about current updates and developments.
• Contact us tells you how to contact customer services with your feedback.
• Help opens these Help pages. When you click on this link, you will go to the section appropriate to the page you are on.
• Clicking the Encyclopedia of Law logo returns you to the home page
The tabs take you to the different content sections of the site, each of which has its own landing pages.
The site contains links to several legal dictionaries. These are connected to the legal thesaurus.
The search box
The box in the middle panel of the homepage offers the option of doing a Google search or a normal search. For example, you may do either a legal dictionary or a legal thesaurus Search. Just click on the name of the section you wish to search.
The Browse section
This section can be used as a way into the Encyclopedia of Law when, for example, you don’t have a specific word in mind to search for. To start browsing the Encyclopedia, either see a full alphabetical (A to Z) index (list) of all the entries, or choose one of the several categories and their sub-sections to see a filtered list of entries which are classified there. You can also go to the alphabetical (A-Z) index at any time by clicking the A-Z tab.
4 Dictionary and thesaurus
4.1 Quick search
To do a Quick Search, you can search directly from the homepage, as described above, or by using the search box in the top right-hand corner of every page. Here you can choose to search the dictionaries, the thesaurus, the other sections via the More link, or to use the dictionary advanced search.
You may enter single words or multi-word searches. Click the Go button to initiate your search, or hit the Enter key.
If there is a single matching entry to your search, it will be displayed. If there is more than one entry, a results list will appear.
4.1.1 Special characters, hyphens, case, and spaces
You do not need to enter accented letters in Quick Search in order to find words which contain accents. A search for cafe finds cafe, café, Cafe, Café, CAFE, CAFÉ.
To enter accented characters in French, German, Italian, and Spanish from a desktop computer, click on the virtual keyboard to the right of the search box. To enter accented characters on a smartphone, tap and hold down the letter required on the smartphone keyboard, and a list of accented characters will appear.
Hyphens and spaces are treated interchangeably. A search for house to house will also match house-to-house; a search for outer-space will also match the result outer space. A search for outerspace, will be treated as a single word and only match that exact form.
Quick search is not sensitive to case, so you can enter your search term in lower-case or upper-case letters, and get the same result, e.g. entering conservative finds conservative and Conservative
In Quick search you can use the wildcards * and ? ? represents any single character
• c?t matches cat, cut, cot.
* represents one or more characters
•c*t matches cat, cut, cot, and also carat, clot, coot, count, etc.
4.1.3 Word wheel
In the dictionary list, subordinate entries are shown indented, under the headword within which they occur.
When an entry is displayed, the headword will be shown in the middle of the word wheel.
4.2 Dictionary Advanced Search
The Advanced Search can be accessed via the link beneath the main search box, or by the Modify Search link on a dictionary results page.
You are given a form in which you can enter text to search for in the box at the top. Extra rows can be added by clicking the Add row link, so that you can search for more than one term at a time, and combine them with Boolean operators from he drop-down list which will appear when there is more than one search box.
The Boolean operators with which two or more search terms can be combined are AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, and NOT NEAR.
AND: Using this operator between search terms retrieves entries or containing both terms
OR: Using this operator between search terms retrieves entries containing either of the terms.
NOT: Using this operator between search terms retrieves entries containing the first term but not the second.
NEAR: Using this operator between search terms retrieves entries or containing the first term within a 5 words of the second
NOT NEAR: Using this operator between search terms retrieves entries in which the first term occurs, and in which the second term does not occur within 5 words of the first.
To the right of the input box(es) is a drop-down list of regions for you to choose exactly which part of the entries you want to search.
A palette between the two boxes enables you to insert accented characters which are not on a normal keyboard.
Advanced searches are case and accent insensitive by default. Tick boxes beneath the search boxes can be used to turn on case sensitivity and exact character matching when required.
Below this search box area are three refinement options, Meaning, People and Places, and Subject, for you to choose categories you wish to match. Each has a Browse list associated with it, so that you can see the available categories and sub-categories. You can either click on a category to enter the term in the search box, or begin typing and the auto-complete will fill in the valid words for you. Only one selection can be made from each level.
It is also possible to refine your search further using one of the check-box groups to the right of the page, to specify Region, Usage, and Word Class. You may tick any number of boxes. Use the Search button at the bottom of the page to initiate your search, or use Reset to empty all the boxes and start again.
4.3 Search Results
If there is one result for your search, the entry display will open automatically, with the match-point highlighted if it is not at the top of the entry.
If there is more than one result, a Results list is displayed.
If there are no results, you are offered a number of links to suggested entries. The size of the text can be increased or decreased using the letter “A” icons at the top right of the entry display panel.
4.3.1 Dictionary results list
The number of results is listed at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page you can choose the number of results to list per page; the default number is 10. You can also enter a number in the Jump to page box to move to a different place in the list, or click on one of the listed page numbers.
Each of the results consists of a headword and a snapshot of the matching part of the entry. Beneath the headword is a blue barcode indicating the size of the entry, with a vertical red bar showing the relative position of the match within the entry. Click any headword to go to that entry, open at the match-point.
Beneath each result line is a Save entry link which will save it in your personal My Searches area (see section 11 below.) You can modify the search or do a new by using the links in the middle panel.
Some entries also have a Go to thesaurus entry link beneath the result line, which takes you to the corresponding entry in the thesaurus.
The results are listed in order of relevance (starting with main headwords), but you can choose to list them in alphabetical (A–Z) order, using the Sort by options at the top of the list.
4.3.2 Refining your dictionary search
When a results list is displayed, from either search or browse, you can narrow down any the list by selecting a category from one of the six refinement options in the middle panel: Meaning, Subject, People and Places, Usage, Region, and Word Class. (These are the same as those listed on the homepage.) When you select a category, its sub-categories are shown, and when you choose one by clicking, the results list is updated. The chosen facets are also added to the You’re browsing list in the middle panel, from where you can remove them one by one using the cross, or you can choose to Clear all.
The area above the refinement options records your search term and any filtering criteria you have applied. Here you can clear the filtering by using the cross beside each line you have refined on, or by using the Clear all option. You can also save or modify the search, or choose to run a new search. Clicking the Modify search link will take you to the Advanced Search form for more detailed refinement options.
4.3.3 Thesaurus results list
The results of a thesaurus search are shown as a tabbed set, divided into headword matches, synonym matches, and antonym matches. Each tab shows the number of results that are listed on the page beneath.
When a tab is selected, a statement of the number of entries being displayed can be seen at the top of the list. The number of items per page, or the page displayed, can be changed using the options at the bottom of the page. The displayed list can be sorted alphabetically or by relevance, using the controls at the top right of the page.
Each result line shows a fragment of text with the term which matches the search highlighted. Below each line are links to Go to either the thesaurus or the dictionary entry.
4. 4 Entry display
The size of the text can be increased or decreased using the letter “A” icons at the top right of the entry display panel.
4.4.1 Dictionary entry display
If you have arrived at an entry via a results list, you can return to the list, or go directly to the previous or next result, using the links in the green bar at the top of the panel.
The headword is displayed in orange at the top of the entry. In the World English dictionary, an indication of the correct place for line-breaks can also be shown, and in the US dictionary the point at which the syllables should be divided can be shown, by means of the on/off switch on the same line as the pronunciation.
A loud-speaker icon immediately to the right of the pronunciation allows you to hear the word spoken: see section 5 Audio pronunciations below for more technical advice on using this feature.
Associated phrases and derivatives are shown at the end of the entry in a green tinted panel, followed by the origin of the word. Any usage notes will appear beneath the origin; a link in the middle column will take you straight to these. These might be any of Usage, Easily confused words, Spelling rule, Spelling help, Spelling tip, or Grammar.
As you move the mouse pointer over the entry, individual sense units are highlighted in a blue box. In the case of main senses, and some phrases and derivatives, options also appear on the right to show More or Fewer examples, and to show Synonyms and Categories.
Extra illustrative examples are pulled in from the Example sentences section of the site, when the More/Fewer examples link is clicked.
Synonyms of the headword which are listed in the thesaurus can be viewed by placing the mouse pointer over the Synonyms link and clicking, when a pop-up will appear with a list. You can go to the dictionary entry for any word coloured blue in the list by clicking it, or you can use the View thesaurus entry link in the box to see the whole thesaurus entry corresponding to the current headword.
Clicking the Categories link will give a pop-up indicating all the headings under which a word is classified, shown as a breadcrumb trail with nodes. Clicking one of these nodes will produce a full list of words for that category and level. Simply click the cross in the top right-hand corner of these boxes to close them.
If an entry is longer than the screen size, a grey internal scroll bar appears at the right-hand side, which allows you to move up and down the entry by clicking any point within it. If you pause the mouse pointer over the bar at any point, a tool-tip will appear showing you the sense number and beginning of the definition text at that point.
The middle panel may contain any of these links and extra information about the entry:
A usage note: this link will take you directly to the bottom of the entry where any extra information about usage of the word will be displayed.
A link to view the corresponding thesaurus entry
A link to run a full text search for the entry word: this will search for your word not only as a main or subordinate headword, but will also find examples that occur anywhere in the body of other entries
A link to see all example sentences for the entry: this will take you to the Example sentences section of the website, showing all sentences which illustrate the use of the word you have displayed A link to related material in the Writing Skills section
A link to look up the word in the Oxford English Dictionary Online : this will take you to the OED Online web site, where the full history of the word’s development in English can be seen
A link to look up the word in Oxford Language Dictionaries Online: this link will show you which dictionaries you have access to on our bi-lingual dictionaries site, and you can select one to search.
4.4.2 Thesaurus entry display
The headword is displayed in orange at the top of the entry. The body of the entry is divided into senses, each showing a different sentence using the headword, followed by synonyms and antonyms of the headword when used in that sense.
A View dictionary entry link beneath each sense will take you to the dictionary definition corresponding to that sense.
Many of the words in the thesaurus entries are themselves links which will take you to the dictionary entries. If you move the mouse pointer over one of these, a pop-up with a brief definition and a link to view the full entry will appear.
Any usage notes will appear at the bottom of the entry; a link in the middle column will take you straight to these. These might be any of Word toolkit, Easily confused words, Word links, Choose the right word, Word note, Word spectrum, or Usage.
In the panel in the middle of the page there are also further options:
View dictionary entry takes you to the corresponding dictionary entry.
See all example sentences takes you to the Example sentences section of the site, with examples for the word displayed.
Lists of synonyms and antonyms of the displayed word are also offered, and clicking any link takes you to the dictionary entry for that word. The More link below each of these takes you to a full Thesaurus search result page open at the relevant tab.
In the case of formal cross-references, which are displayed in small capitals,
4.4.3 Direct lookup from an entry
Many words in the body of dictionary and thesaurus entries have their own definitions available, without your having to leave the page to see them. You can recognize these because they become underlined when you hover the mouse pointer over them. If you then single click the word, a pop-up box will appear with a short definition. If you want to go to the entry itself, click the View entry link in the box. Click the cross in the top right-hand corner of the box to close it.
For some words, the pop-up box will not contain a further link, as these are simple tooltips for understanding the word in context.
In the case of formal cross-references, which are displayed in small capitals, just single click on the word to go to the entry.
In addition, you can look up most other words in a dictionary or thesaurus entry, or in the Example sentences section, simply by double-clicking the word to launch a search.
7 For writers and editors
In this section you can search New Hart’s Rules, Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage (US Garner’s Modern American Usage), New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, New Oxford Spelling Dictionary, and Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors.
You can click on one of the panels to start browsing that text, or use the search box in the left-hand panel, where you search all of the texts simultaneously, or choose one from the drop-down list above the search box. Type your search term into the box and hit Go. If a results list is returned, the usual mechanisms for sorting and displaying results apply. Click any match to go to that entry.
When you display a result within an individual work, an A to Z word-wheel or a table of contents appears on the left, depending on the organization of the work in question. This enables you to search further within that work. When a table of contents is presented, you can click on the plus sign beside any heading to see the sections beneath it; the content will be displayed in the main panel when you select a section.
8 Writing skills
This section has four areas: Grammar and Punctuation, Spelling, Style and Usage, and Vocabulary Builder.
You can click on one of the panels to start browsing that area, or use the search box in the left-hand panel, where you search all of the areas simultaneously, or choose one from the drop-down list above the search box. Type your search term into the box and hit Go. If a results list is returned, the usual mechanisms for sorting and displaying results apply. Click any match to go to that entry.
When you display a result within an individual area, a contents list appears on the left. This enables you to search further within that area by choosing a particular topic. Use the plus and minus signs to expand and collapse the list and see what is available.
10 Print, email, save
The following tools are available:
Print – takes you to the print view of a displayed entry or search results list, which you can then print.
Email – offers a form for you to email an entry to another recipient, together with a brief message. This then sends a free link which is valid for three days, in order to allow temporary access to others who are not subscribers.
Save – allows you to save an entry or results list to your personal account. Clicking the Save link wil invite you to login if you have an account, or to set one up if you have not already done so.
11 Personalization features
You can sign up for an account that will help you to personalize the dictionary by clicking the Create My Oxford Dictionary profile link at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Once you have created an account, you can sign in using the link to its left.
Links to My entries and My searches are shown above the word-wheel. If you have not set up an account, these will just record your session history, showing recently viewed items from the current session when you move the mouse pointer over them. If you do sign up for an account, your history will be preserved across different sessions. You will be able to view saved entries and searches, name them, and organize them into folders, using the Manage saved entries/searches link at the bottom of the pop-up boxes. Clicking this will take you to a page with tabs for all these functions, and in addition you can set preferences for default dictionary and number of results to display per page. You can also change your email address and password here.
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.
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Parent, Student, Administrator
Why isn’t this word in your dictionary?
What does this word mean?
What is the origin of this word?
Do you have an online thesaurus?
How can I find out a word’s pronunciation?
What do the phonetic symbols mean?
What do the codes in dictionary entries mean?
What do sb and sth mean?
What do the A1, B2, C1, etc. labels mean?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What do the phonetic symbols mean?
You can see a full list of phonetic symbols used in our dictionaries, with examples of their pronunciation.
For authors, which texts are recommended?
New Hart’s Rules (2005)
Allen, Robert. Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage (2nd ed., 2008)/ (US) Garner, Bryan. Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed., 2009)
New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors (2005)
Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors (2nd ed., 2009)
Butterfield, Jeremy. Oxford A-Z of English Usage (2007)
Seeley, John. Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation (2nd ed., 2009)
Compact Oxford English Dictionary for Students (2006)
Compact Oxford Thesaurus for university and College Students (2007)
Oxford A-Z of Better Spelling (2nd ed., 2009)
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.
What do sb and sth in entries mean?
sb means somebody, and sth means something.
Our legal dictionaries
Essential British English
Essential American English
Browse the Thesaurus