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There was once a website oxforddictionaries.com that provided merged contents of ODE (Oxford Dictionary of English) and NOAD (New Oxford American Dictionary), along with some grammar tips etc.

Then it was rebranded as Lexico(.com) when Dictionary.com (organization) partnered with OUP (Oxford University Press).

But starting 26th Aug 2022 Dictionary.com killed Lexico, which now forwards to dictionary.com itself. Personally I'm not interested in dictionary.com content.

Does it mean that there's now no way to access relevant Oxford (non-learner's (!)) dictionaries online? It seems to be quite ridiculous considering ODE & NOAD are both the official dictionaries in Apple OS-s and the base for Google (Translate) dictionaries :(

Where can I find traditional Oxford Dictionaries online? I'm not talking about learner's or OED. (Their mobile apps from Mobi Systems seem to be alive though...)

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    The short answer is, sadly, "no". Lexico is no more. But there is still OALD, which is still very good for learners just less so for highly competent speakers.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 27 at 14:12
  • 1
    The OED is having a sale. $100.00 for a year instead of $350.00. That is a BFD, especially for language professionals.
    – Lambie
    Sep 7 at 22:16
  • @Lambie before added tax... you have to register first in order to find out how much tax you might/will have to pay on top. This is not good marketing strategy IMO. Still, 100€ is more appealing I just wish it were for 24 months. It's unlikely that I will need the OED daily.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 9 at 7:05
  • @Mari-LouA "We are pleased to offer annual individual OED subscriptions for $100 in the US or £100 for the Rest of the World. For this annual rate, you’ll have full unrestricted access to the OED Online – including quarterly updates". The tax is not more than 15%, so it's still very much worth it.
    – Lambie
    Sep 9 at 16:05

5 Answers 5

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Search Engines

Yes, you can still access the definitions freely online, since apparently Google and Bing are still licensed to provide them. (Note: Some entries for proper nouns are missing or incomplete in Google, while Bing's were complete.)

For best results, search for define [term]. You can also search for dictionary and type your word in the box (autocomplete will show you what words are in the dictionary).

Here's what I see in Google compared with NOAD (they're the same, though I wasn't able to show the full NOAD entry which includes the origin):

"a person who is blamed or punished for the faults or incompetence of others." With pronunciation, example, and origin

From define whipping boy

ODE vs NOAD

It's not entirely clear to me how this works, but I think it's identical to NOAD for most definitions. (For people who live elsewhere, it may use something based on ODE instead, the British counterpart to NOAD.) Unfortunately, Lexico had some definitions that were missing in NOAD/ODE, such as "fireman's pole".

For your convenience I made bookmarklets to switch between dictionaries, based off the information in Nardog's answer. To use, bookmark any page and replace the URL with one of the snippets below.

Switch to British English:

javascript:window.location=window.location.toString().includes('gl=us')?window.location.toString().replace(/gl=us/,'gl=gb'):window.location.toString()+'&gl=gb'

Switch to American English:

javascript:window.location=window.location.toString().includes('gl=gb')?window.location.toString().replace(/gl=gb/,'gl=us'):window.location.toString()+'&gl=us'

(Could probably use fine tuning.)

Attribution

If you use a definition in your post, please credit the dictionary provider, which you can see at the top: "Definitions from Oxford Languages". For greatest clarity I recommend citing how you found the definition: "Oxford Languages via Google".

Finding example sentences

Lexico had more example sentences, and sadly I don't think they are available anywhere else. No other dictionary has examples quite like that. The closest alternative may be Cambridge, which seems to have about two examples per definition, plus a few more that belong to each group of definitions. However, while Lexico had "found" examples, Cambridge seems to have examples that were made up for the dictionary.

Operating systems that include Oxford Dictionaries

Some systems also come with Oxford Dictionaries installed. This is usually a more convenient way of accessing it. Here's a list:

  • MacOS
  • iOS (as I'm using in the screenshot)
  • Kindle

Apps

As you noted, there are also mobile apps (iOS and Android). I may have used the Android one but I honestly don't remember much about it. The reviews seem to be very mixed.

Archive sites

Lastly, many of the pages (but not all) were backed up by archivers like archive.org. For the best chance to find an archive, it's important to remember all the renames the site went through:

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    Google seems to exclude proper nouns from Oxford data. Bing, on the other hand, does not (example).
    – Nardog
    Aug 28 at 4:25
  • When I click on the link I see no example sentences, and the IPA is missing. Google's "dictionary" had the same features and drawbacks before Lexico was closed. There are dozens of online dictionaries that provide good definitions, but I can only come up with Merriam-Webster that provides authentic examples of usage.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 28 at 12:35
  • @Nardog If you search for his full name, Bing will also define "Machiavelli, Niccolò". Google refuses to show either of those definitions, showing either no dictionary result or a definition for "Machiavellian" (which shows you that it's not exactly that proper nouns won't be shown — if I had to guess, they suppress the definition when the word matches a person's name exactly). I was also able to get Google to define "Kleenex"
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 28 at 12:35
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    @Mari-LouA Yeah, I miss the example sentences for each definition too :( Recently I've been using COCA and similar (which allow more powerful searching than a regular search engine) but it's not the same. It's not easy to find examples for rare definitions of words.
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 28 at 12:40
  • BNC (British National Corpus) is also worth a look. I just use it for collections.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 28 at 12:49
  • @Laurel It's not just people's names, it's all proper nouns including places and events (Kleenex is a generic noun from a genericized trademark). define watergate on Google only gives you the lowercase entry while Bing gives you both. I assume Google just wants to show results from the internet when it comes to encyclopedic topics.
    – Nardog
    Aug 28 at 14:48
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    @Mari-LouA: “I can only come up with Merriam-Webster that provides authentic examples of usage” — the problem is that Merriam-Webster does not separate example sentences by meanings. Lexico had a lot of high-quality example sentences for the majority of meanings of the lexical units. [1/2] Aug 29 at 3:44
  • @Mari-LouA: For example, consider the lexical unit “set apart”. Wiktionary has three meanings for this unit, Merriam-Webster has two. Where can I find example sentences for “set apart” separated by meanings? The quality of usage examples in the Oxford LD is absolutely unacceptable for me (when I compare these examples to what I have seen at Lexico). [2/2] Aug 29 at 3:46
  • @Mari-LouA "When I click on the link I see no example sentences, and the IPA is missing." It looks like you may be getting ODE instead of NOAD. For "whipping boy" ODE doesn't have any IPA.
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 29 at 12:39
  • Yes, it's ODE on my home computer and android mobile. Fortunately, for other definitions Google dictionary (Oxford) does provide the IPA.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 29 at 13:29
  • Is there an acceptable way to cite definitions provided by Google?
    – jxh
    Aug 30 at 16:05
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    @jxh They're really not making it easy. My preference would be for it to be attributed to the dictionary it came from (NOAD or ODE) but even I don't know if the Google content is exactly the same without crosschecking each entry. The more practical solution is to attribute it to "Oxford Languages via Google", if possible including information on if you think you're using the "US" or "GB" version (see Nardog's answer).
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 30 at 20:05
  • I usually type any word I need and then add "meaning". Sometimes "meaning" is even automatically suggested by Google and the first hit is OLD.
    – fev
    Aug 31 at 9:45
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To add to Laurel's answer, this URL scheme seems to be the way to make sure everybody who follows a link to a define search on Google sees the same thing:

https://www.google.com/search?gl=gb&hl=en&q=define+example&forcedict=example&dictcorpus=en&expnd=1

Let's break it down one by one:

  • gl=gb: Makes sure the dictionary is the one based on ODE, not on NOAD. gl=us if you want to cite the one based on NOAD. Without this, it'll give you NOAD if Google thinks you're in North America, and ODE otherwise.
  • hl=en: Forces English as the interface language. Essential if the language the user usually sees Google in has a word spelled the same as the query.
  • q=define+example: Self-explanatory, except that it has to be + (or anything that converts to a space), not : (%3A). Some queries, such as a prefix beginning with a hyphen, do not work with define:.
  • forcedict=example, dictcorpus=en: I haven't found a case where these parameters actually make a difference, but they're there when you click on a synonym, so probably better include it.
  • expnd=1: Expands the entry, saving you a click.

For Bing, which includes proper nouns unlike Google, these seem to work:

https://www.bing.com/search?q=define+example&cc=gb&setlang=en

https://www.bing.com/search?q=define+example&cc=us&setlang=en

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To add to other answers, apparently there's something called Oxford Dictionaries Premium (https://premium.oxforddictionaries.com/words/help, they apparently include many languages), which is only available with a subscription, but it probably (maybe?) still has Lexico's content...

Haven't tried it yet though

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  • It's very confusing. There's also "Oxford Dictionaries Pro", which is more expensive and seems to have the examples according to its description: "In addition to more than 350,000 modern English definitions and entries and 600,000 synonyms and antonyms, Oxford Dictionaries Pro provides access to a vast bank of over 1.9 million real English example sentences showing words as they are really used in today's English."
    – Laurel Mod
    Aug 31 at 23:25
  • @Laurel I assume Pro is the same thing as (or a predecessor to) Premium and they've just forgot to take it down. The paid version of Oxford Dictionaries coexisted with the free version on oxforddictionaries.com before the free content was rebranded as Oxford Living Dictionaries (which was then migrated to Lexico) and the paid part as Oxford Dictionaries Premium.
    – Nardog
    Sep 1 at 5:27
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I've been trying to find the same, and I haven't found a good alternative yet, unfortunately. It's sad really, since I used Lexico daily. I can't help but feel it was a bit malicious though, seeing as even when Lexico was live, the website would use pernicious tactics to nudge users toward the US English part of it by not showing international English search results when searching from the US English part of it, but showing US English results when searching from the international English part of it, for example.

Of course, using Google or the like isn't a good alternative either because they exclusively use some US English version of their dictionary content with no option to change it, and it doesn't take context into account either. A quick search on Google for define football, for example, regardless of even being outside of the US, shows these as the only definitions:

  1. a form of team game played in North America with an oval ball on a field marked out as a gridiron
  2. a ball used in football, either oval (as in American football) or round (as in soccer), typically made of leather or plastic and filled with compressed air.

Clearly, this is just egregious.

The closest thing I can recommend is to use Collins' website, but of course, that isn't Oxford content.

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    "they exclusively use some US English version" A valid frustration. I made you (and everyone else who wants it!) a bookmarklet to easily switch versions. It's in the middle of my answer and you can reply to this comment if you have any troubles getting it working.
    – Laurel Mod
    Oct 7 at 14:15
  • Seems like that worked; thanks!
    – getsnoopy
    Oct 8 at 6:52
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The message is no longer there because the homepage is no longer there, so I can't cite it, but what it said on the homepage of lexico.com before it went dark and started rerouting users to dictionary.com is that the reason users are being rerouted to dictionary.com is that the lexico.com definitions all appear on dictionary.com.

If it's the British English definitions you're looking for, then on dictionary.com, you just scroll down the page of a particular word until you get to the gray heading that reads "British Dictionary Definitions for..." whereupon you'll find the British English definitions for that word lexico.com once provided.

Now, you can access The Oxford English Dictionary online, like always, the unabridged version rather than the highly abridged version lexico.com offered, but it is a subscription website, meaning you have to pay for a subscription in order to access it and it doesn't serve as a good source for websites like this one because only users who have paid subscriptions to it will be able to link to the source material you use as a reference and see it, which will be very few users. Nevertheless, if you're interested, the web address for the official website of The Oxford English Dictionary is: www.oed.com.

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    AFAIU British ones are provided by Collins, not by Oxford, there's a source info: 'COLLINS ENGLISH DICTIONARY - COMPLETE & UNABRIDGED 2012 DIGITAL EDITION'; at the end, I just want the Oxford content, not Dictionary's / Collins / etc.
    – deshalder
    Aug 27 at 15:23
  • The definitions certainly aren't on dictionary.com yet. But maybe they will eventually—it'd be stupid for dictionary.com not to put them up at some point. Aug 27 at 16:35

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