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Online Etymology Dictionary

What is it and where did we get it – tenterhook, gimlet, cordwainer? The creation of Doug Harper, a former high school teacher turned journalist, this free online etymology dictionary tells you almost anything you’d need to know about almost any word you can think to look up.

A blog by author David Wilton about words and phrases, roots, uses, and other aspects of etymology. Click on The Big List to browse topics. There’s also a link to his book, Word Myths – Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, in which the author “…debunks some of the most spectacularly wrong word histories…” like does Ring Around the Roses really have anything to do with the Black Plague? 

World Wide Words

Former BBC studio manager, radio show host, cider museum curator, dictionary entry writer for the Oxford Dictionary of New Words, and last-but-not-least author, Michael Quinion created this site where he investigates word origins and histories. There’s a Pronunciation link and a Surprise Page, for a word or phrase of the day – what is the origin of shufty?

The Word Detective

This is the online version of an international newspaper column that answers readers’ questions about words and language. Flummox vs. flabbergast, malaprops vs. mondedgreens, scribner vs. scrivener, this collection of columns and topics goes back to 1995.


You can search for free or become a member of the Clubhouse to ask a question or contribute to an existing discussion with like-minded people. Click on Language at Play to browse other topics like Famous Insults or Quotations, and there’s even a collection of historical diary entries for your enjoyment. Wonder what Mungo Park was up to around the turn of the 18th century? Search by author surname to find out. 


A very simple site where you can play a fast-paced timed word game, with three levels of difficulty. Not as easy as it sounds!


More than just “the world’s biggest online dictionary, by number of words”, this site shows definitions from multiple sources, and includes lots of other word relationships – synonyms, hyponyms, meronyms, and even hypernyms! 


A visual dictionary! Search for a word and up pops a brightly-colored interactive graphic that changes with every new selection.

Snappy Words

A visual dictionary that includes other uses of the search term. Looking for related words for “more”, for example, also gives you Sir Thomas More, the definition of solon, and how comparatives can be formed. 

Graph Words

An interactive visual thesaurus that lets you click through to even more synonyms and related words. Entering the word “learn” leads you to “teach” which leads you to the pirate “Edward Teach” and on and on. 

Free Rice

Test your vocabulary and, for each answer you get right, donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger.

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