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Guide to the Cambridge Online Dictionary


Make the Most of your Dictionary

The Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary Online is a fantastic free resource. This step-by-step guide will help you get the most out of it.

Using the Cambridge Online Dictionary

First steps

Go to the dictionary homepage by clicking here and enter the word you want to look up. You will probably be given a list of different meanings of that word, and any expressions that it appears in. This can be very useful for expanding your vocabulary. Click on the meaning that you are interested in.


I'm going to use the word 'sleep' as an example. I'm in interested in the meaning 'resting state'. I already know the meaning, but I want to see how to use it in my sentences.



What information is displayed?

1. The part of speech.

Sleep is both a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it is usually uncountable (meaning 1). This is marked by a [U]. However, in meaning 3, it is countable, e.g. a deep sleep.

As a verb, it is usually intransitive (an intransitive verb doesn't have a direct object, and is marked with [I]). Meaning 2 is a special use of the word 'sleep', which is used when talking about the number of beds in a certain place, e.g. This apartment sleeps four. This is a transitive verb [T] and therefore requires an object.

You can see the whole word family here, including sleepy, sleepless, sleeper, sleepily and sleepiness.


2. Information about pronunciation.

Click [Show phonetics] to see the phonetic symbols. Even if you do not understand the symbols, it is useful to see where the stress is. The main stress comes after '.

There is no sound with this dictionary. However, the American online dictionary Merriam-Webster lets you listen to the pronunciation (in American English, of course!).


3. The definition

If there is a word you don't understand, you can double-click to read the meaning and then hit the 'Back' button.


4. How to use the word in a sentence.

You can see verb structures, e.g. go/get to sleep.

Collocations (words that go together) are shown in bold, such as a light sleeper.

Example sentences are provided to help feel more confident about using the word correctly.


5. Useful expressions

Here, you can see the expressions sleep like a log and sleep rough. There are also links to words that are related to sleep, such as oversleep and sleepwalker.


6. Important contextual information

INFORMAL - such as sleep like a log

UK - sleep rough is a British English expression.


Other important notes you might see include:

US, AUSTRALIAN, OFFENSIVE (=impolite language!), FORMAL, OLD-FASHIONED (=not commonly used today) & OLD USE(=not used at all today).



Related Pages

Also on Okey-Dokey:

Writing - Develop your skills further

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Vocabulary: Word Power - Build knowledge and sort out any confusion!



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