Oxford English Dictionaries

Oxford English dictionaries are widely known and extensively used. They also greatly vary in depth and size.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

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Here I will review two of the most useful English-English Oxford dictionaries for English learners:

Oxford English Dictionaries Part 1:
Oxford Essential Dictionary

English Level: Elementary and Pre-Intermediate

Oxford Essential Dictionary Oxford Essential Dictionary is one of my favorite dictionaries.
It is a very simple dictionary for beginners. What's great about it is that it uses simple and basic words inside its definitions.

The problem with simple dictionaries is that sometimes they get too simple, meaning, they can mislead and over-simplify words, and leave you in confusion.

Oxford Essential Dictionary, however, has a great balance:
it is very easy to understand, and it does not leave out critical data.

In other words, it can be ideal for learners of English and/or school children.

Just for comparison... here is a typical example to illustrate what I mean. Let's have a look at the word "abolish".

Here is a definition from Merriam Webster's On-Line Dictionary:
Abolish = "to end the observance or effect of: annul."

(Note: Observance = to behave according to a particular law or custom.
Annul = to cancel something legally.)

Here is the definition from Oxford Essential Dictionary:
Abolish = "to stop or end something by law."

So unless your level of English is VERY good, Merriam Webster's On-Line Dictionary may be too difficult. You must be able to look up a word and understand the definitions.

So what does Oxford Essential Dictionary include?

  • 19,000 words and phrases explained in clear, simple English.

  • The 2,000 most important and useful words to learn at this level are clearly marked as keywords so that learners give them special attention.

  • 13,000 example sentences throughout the dictionary to help learners use the words correctly.

  • 500 notes on spelling, grammar and pronunciation to help learners avoid mistakes and build their vocabulary.

  • Over 400 illustrations throughout the dictionary and a colorful 16-page Picture Dictionary section help to explain difficult words or to show a word's different meanings.

  • 16-page study section gives extra help on topics such as talking on the telephone, letter writing, and talking about dates and numbers.

  • You can also get it with a CD-ROM. This lets you search the dictionary and hear spoken British and American pronunciation of all the words and listen to spoken examples.
  • The CD-ROM also contains games and exercises to give more practice in vocabulary learning and help prepare for standard exams.

Any downsides?

Oxford's Essential Dictionary is exactly as the name suggests: essential. Meaning, it has the most essential and important words of English, but not all of them. As your level of English advances you will need to supplement it with a bigger dictionary, which would have more words, and more data about each word.


With that said, this simple dictionary is quite priceless for beginners. it is a truly helpful guide for students in the first stages of learning English, simply because it helps you learn the most important words and how to use them.

Get your copy of Oxford Essential Dictionary by Oxford University Press.

Oxford English Dictionaries Part 2:
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

English Level: Upper-Intermediate to Advanced

Oxford Advanced Learner's DictionaryI must admit that Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary is my all times favorite!

It is just so simple and to the point! A true English learner's paradise...

Now, what's the difference between it and his "little brother" the Oxford Essential Dictionary?

  • It has much much more words defined. The Oxford Essential Dictionary only has the most basic and common words of English.

  • It is more thorough and gives much more defintions.

  • It gives much more idioms.

  • It gives a list of phrasel verbs under verbs.

  • It shows the natural usage of the words by making the typical expressions bold.

Let's actually compare them, using the word "admire."

From the Oxford Essential Dictionary:

Admire = to think or say that somebody or something is very good.

- I really admire you for doing such a difficult job.

- They were admiring the view from the top of the tower.

From the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

Admire =

1. to respect somebody for what they are or for what they have done.

- admire somebody/something: I really admire your enthusiasm.

- You have to admire the way he handled the situation.

- admire somebody/something for something: The school is widely admired for its excellent teaching.

- admire somebody for doing something: I don't agree with her, but I admire her for sticking to her principles.

2. admire something: to look at something and think that it is attractive and/or impressive.

- He stood back to admire his handiwork.

- I've just been admiring your new car.

- Let's just sit and admire the view.

So as you can see, the Oxford Essential Dictionary is much more simple, but the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary is much more thorough and precise, without really being much harder to understand.

Which one should you use? That is up to you. Judge your level of English and decide accordingly.

Here are some more example definitions from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Abolish = abolish something: to officially end a law, a system or an institution.

- This tax should be abolished.

Electricity = a form of energy from charged elementary particles, usually supplied as electric current through cables, wires, etc. for lighting, heating, driving machines, etc.

- a waste of electricity

- The electricity is off (= there is no electric power supply)

Utesil = a tool that is used in the house.

- cooking/kitchen utensils

Now, this wonderful dictionary is available online for free.

However, if you buy the book and CD-ROM versions you get some extra cool features:

  • Oxford Writing Tutor and Oxford iWriter

  • Integrated thesaurus and word origins

  • Thousands of extra example sentences

  • Visual vocabulary builder

  • Topic collocations (combinations of words that are used together frequently) and topic vocabulary

  • Different exercises with different accents
Get your copy of Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary by Oxford University Press.

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