Handheld dictionary electronic

Handheld dictionary electronic DEFAULT

The best electronic dictionary

By Allen Foster


Jan 13, 2021 at 12:43 PM

The more you use your electronic dictionary, the faster the batteries will run out. Don't forget to factor in this ongoing cost.

As of 2020, the English language has more than 170,000 words that are regularly used. However, the active vocabulary of the average individual is just 20,000 words. This means there are over 150,000 words that exist that the average person doesn’t use — just one of the reasons why it’s important to have an electronic dictionary on hand.

Electronic dictionaries have an extensive database and an array of tools to make searches and learning easier. Our top pick, the Franklin Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus, has phonetic spell correction, entertaining word games, a crossword solver, and a number of other impressive extras. If you'd like to learn more about electronic dictionaries, keep reading.

Considerations when choosing electronic dictionaries

Size can be tricky with an electronic dictionary. If it’s too large, it won't be easily portable, but if it’s too small, it may be hard to enter words. Look for a model that’s large enough to easily use and small enough to easily carry.

Most electronic dictionaries run on batteries. Some run on AAA batteries while others run on the small disc batteries you find in a watch. If you find one that uses an adapter, make sure the adapter is included with the purchase or is easily available.

If you’re purchasing an electronic dictionary for a child, you might only need 30,000 words. However, if it’s for an adult, you likely want to have a database of over 100,000 words. Understand the capabilities of your electronic dictionary — know whether it’s just a glorified spellchecker, or if it has the capacity to serve as an encyclopedia and thesaurus as well.

Suggestions for misspelled words

Consider a model that can still find a word if you spell it incorrectly. This way, you don’t become frustrated when you have to repeatedly guess at a word with an unusual spelling.

To save time, some electronic dictionaries suggest words as you type. If you think this would be a useful feature, look for a model with autocomplete.

While you want your electronic dictionary to be small, it also should have a screen that’s large enough to easily see. You also need a screen that can be read in all situations, whether you’re in bright or dim light.

The primary function of an electronic dictionary is to help you with reading comprehension. However, depending on the device, you can often accomplish much more. Some extras available may include a calculator, a translator, an anagram solver, a collection of games, a quotation dictionary, the ability to convert text to speech, and more. If there’s a particular feature or function that sounds appealing to you, make sure the model you’re considering has it.

If you're looking for an electronic dictionary for kids, you might only need to spend $20. A model with a larger database, advanced searching options, and other handy features starts at around $50. If you want an electronic dictionary with bells and whistles, you could spend up to $300.

Q. Can an electronic dictionary help me with crossword puzzles?

A. It depends on the model. If your electronic dictionary has a solve function, you can enter parts of a word to get suggestions on what the whole word might be.

Q. Do I really need an electronic dictionary that features word games?

A. If you want to increase your vocabulary, you need to start learning and using words you don't already know. One of the easiest ways to introduce yourself to new words is by playing word games and solving puzzles. If you're not concerned with increasing your vocabulary, having an electronic dictionary with word games isn't of importance.

Electronic dictionaries we recommend

Our take: Merriam-Webster is the most trusted name in dictionaries among professional wordsmiths, and this electronic version is feature-packed.

What we like: Comes with more than 274,000 definitions. Offers phonetic spell correction and interactive word games; perfect for those studying for the S.A.T. or a spelling bee. Includes handy extras such as a clock, calculator, currency converter, and more.

What we dislike: Some found the screen difficult to read.

Our take: If your child is reading and stumbles upon an unfamiliar word, this tiny electronic dictionary can always be on hand because it doubles as a bookmark.

What we like: The clever design of this educational tool almost guarantees it will be used frequently. It contains data from the Oxford Primary Dictionary and has an isolation window that allows the reader to focus on the troublesome word.

What we dislike: This unit is designed for kids ages seven and up, so it doesn't have the most robust database.

Our take: With over 118,000 words, phrases, and definitions coupled with games and other useful features, this is our top choice for electronic dictionaries.

What we like: This model is loaded with extras including six word games, a calculator, a metric converter, and more. It features phonetic spell correction, confusable alerts, and three solvers for crosswords, anagrams, and word-building.

What we dislike: This electronic dictionary is designed to be easily portable, so it can be small for individuals with larger hands.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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Best Electronic Dictionaries for Mastering Every Definition

Whether you're a student, a traveler abroad, or a new citizen of the United States trying to grasp the nuances of the English language, this electronic dictionary has something for everyone. Royal Machines has loaded the RPPro 29534F with essentials from some of the best brands the world of reference guide world has to offer.

This device delivers the American Heritage Collegiate Dictionary offering 400,000 word definitions, Roget's Thesaurus with 500,000 synonym listings and Barron's Hot Words featuring word lists and exercises to prepare for the SAT's and other standardized tests. You also get a translator for Spanish and French words, an abbreviation dictionary, spell check and a compatible Encyclopedia Britannica CD-ROM for use on a PC or MAC.

It's quite a versatile resource tool for the English language, but Royal went one step further, giving it capabilities of a personal data assistant. The unit stores names, addresses, phone numbers and can even offer calorie counts on popular foods and beverages. A drawback is the small backlit display is a bit tough to read due to the size of the unit and the keyboard is not well-suited for large fingers.

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Buying guide for Best electronic dictionaries

In the age of the smartphone, electronic dictionaries may seem like an obsolete relic from a bygone technological era, but nothing could be further from the truth. These handy machines provide easy access to a dictionary, thesaurus, and more. They’re simple to use for young and old and can be used offline at any time. Try that when you’re traveling or stuck in a network dead zone.

Whether you’re in the market for a tool to help with homework or crossword puzzles or you just want a quick way to find a definition, the correct spelling, or the pronunciation of a word, an electronic dictionary has you covered. Much like smartphones, however, electronic dictionaries are packed with features and specifications that vary greatly from model to model.

Key considerations


These devices are designed to be held easily in the hand, and as such are fairly compact, making them easy to fit into a pocket and take with you. The size does vary a bit, though. If you have larger hands, you might want to choose a slightly larger option, because more compact ones may be difficult to use.

Plastic housings are standard here, but the case should be rugged enough to withstand the occasional mishap that plagues items like these. (How often do you drop your phone?) The housing may also have a cover to protect the keyboard. If it does, be sure that any hinges or clasps are durable and hold the lid securely closed.


Most of these are powered by batteries, though some also have ports for an AC adapter. AAA batteries are common, while some use slightly more exotic ones, such as CR-2032 batteries.  With any electronic dictionary you consider, you should not only know how it’s powered but also whether you need to supply your own batteries upon purchase. It’s also helpful to know how long you can use the device before having to swap out the batteries for fresh ones. Some of these devices are known to drain batteries fairly quickly.


Most of these devices also include other content and functions, making them more of a complete reference source than just a dictionary. Any device you purchase should be set up so you can easily and smoothly switch between its various functions. Note that some of these are geared toward adults, while others offer fewer words and features and a simpler interface better suited to younger users. Know which one you’re buying.

Encyclopedia: While generally fairly limited, an encyclopedia can provide you with the ability to research a variety of topics even when you don’t have an Internet connection. Check the number of entries in the encyclopedia before deciding if this is something you need.

Thesaurus: This is a standard feature on most electronic dictionaries. With a thesaurus, you gain easy access to both synonyms and antonyms for many of the words in the dictionary.

Translation: This isn’t as common, but some electronic dictionaries can also translate commonly used words or phrases. If you want a device with this capability, be sure it supports the languages you want to use with it. A text-to-speech ability is also helpful to have here.

Other: Some manufacturers load other content and functions onto their electronic dictionaries. Depending on the device, some common functions you may find include a calculator, currency or measurement converter, quotation dictionary, anagram solver, world clock, spelling games, and name/address organizer. A crossword solver is also a function that’s available on most of these.

If your electronic dictionary’s LCD screen isn’t backlit, it may be difficult to use in low-light situations.





One of the primary ways that these devices differ from each other is in the number of words they contain in the dictionary database. We’ve seen electronic dictionaries with 60,000 words up to almost 300,000, so there is quite a range from model to model. A device with fewer words may be more geared toward homework and younger users. You also want to compare the entries for other content, such as an encyclopedia or thesaurus.


Standard in electronic dictionaries, a spellchecker can help you to find words that you’re unsure of by offering suggestions as you type.


Text-to-speech, or voice, is pretty rare in devices of this type, but it does exist. You’ll be more likely to find voice capabilities in a device that includes a translation function. If this is a feature you desire, verify that the voice is clear and easy to understand.


Screen: The right LCD screen is one that’s easy to read in all light conditions and large enough that even those with poor eyesight can use the device. Check the number of lines in the display and whether you’re able to adjust the font size on the screen.

Keyboard: Most electronic dictionaries use some minimal form of a QWERTY keyboard for input. The keys should be large enough so you can easily type. If you have larger hands, this is one area where you’ll want to pay particular attention to.

Electronic dictionary prices

Inexpensive: Electronic dictionaries start at around $20. At this price, you’ll largely find kids’ models or those with limited words or features.

Mid-range: The average here is around $100. At this price, you can find devices with a large word database and a variety of features.

Expensive: Electronic dictionaries can cost $300 or more for top-end models. These devices offer extensive word databases and a large number of functions, in addition to some with text-to-speech capabilities.

Other: An ongoing cost is batteries, which can be an issue for some of these devices. An electronic dictionary with a variety of additional features and modes, such as a built-in encyclopedia or a large LCD screen is useful to have, but the trade-off is that you may find yourself going through batteries more frequently. Also check with the manufacturer to find out what, if any, warranty is offered with the device you’re considering.

An Autocomplete feature offers suggestions for words as you’re typing them.




  • Know what you’re buying. Some of these devices are less a dictionary and more a spellchecker that doesn’t include definitions.
  • Pick a Scrabble-friendly model. Love to play Scrabble? Search for a dictionary with an anagram solver, which offers real word suggestions for a jumble of letters that you enter.
  • Make sure the device has the features you need. If your dictionary comes with a voice feature, be sure that it also includes some way to plug earbuds or headphones into it. If you’d like the ability to upgrade your device, search for one that includes a card slot. This will give you access to additional games, added features, and reference books. And while some of these devices work with AC adapters, they don’t necessarily ship with one. If this is an important accessory for you, be sure that your dictionary includes an adapter or that you can easily order one.
  • Choose an electronic dictionary to help with schoolwork. Most of these devices offer some form of “confusables” feature, which alerts you if one word sounds like and/or is confused with another. And some electronic dictionaries allow you to create your own customizable word lists, which can help with word study.


Q. Can these devices be used online?

A. These largely do not have any online element built into them and are completely self-contained reference devices.

Q. Are word games an important feature that I should consider with these?

A. Don’t discount the word games! Most of these devices incorporate several different types of word games, such as Hangman and Word Builder. They can not only be entertaining and help you to kill time but also help build your vocabulary and improve your spelling.

Q. In addition to definitions, what other information about a word do these dictionaries tell you?

A. While this varies depending on the device, other information that these dictionaries can provide includes parts of speech, the word’s use in a sentence, phonetics (how the word sounds), and even the word’s etymology/origin.

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The Top 3 Best Electronic Dictionaries To Buy In 2019

Electronic dictionary

Dictionary whose data exists in digital form and can be accessed through a number of different media

A typical handheld electronic dictionary, showing Instant-Dict (快譯通) MD6800.

An electronic dictionary is a dictionary whose data exists in digital form and can be accessed through a number of different media.[1] Electronic dictionaries can be found in several forms, including software installed on tablet or desktop computers, mobile apps, web applications, and as a built-in function of E-readers. They may be free or require payment.

Casio electronic dictionary


Most of the early electronic dictionaries were, in effect, print dictionaries made available in digital form: the content was identical, but the electronic editions provided users with more powerful search functions. But soon the opportunities offered by digital media began to be exploited. Two obvious advantages are that limitations of space (and the need to optimize its use) become less pressing, so additional content can be provided; and the possibility arises of including multimedia content, such as audio pronunciations and video clips.[2][3]

Electronic dictionary databases, especially those included with software dictionaries are often extensive and can contain up to 500,000 headwords and definitions, verb conjugation tables, and a grammar reference section. Bilingual electronic dictionaries and monolingual dictionaries of inflected languages often include an interactive verb conjugator, and are capable of word stemming and lemmatization.

Publishers and developers of electronic dictionaries may offer native content from their own lexicographers, licensed data from print publications, or both, as in the case of Babylon offering premium content from Merriam Webster, and Ultralingua offering additional premium content from Collins, Masson, and Simon & Schuster, and Paragon Software offering original content from Duden, Britannica, Harrap, Merriam-Webster and Oxford.

Writing systems[edit]

As well as Latin script, electronic dictionaries are also available in logographic and right-to-left scripts, including Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Devanagari, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Cyrillic, and Thai.

Dictionary software[edit]

Dictionary software generally far exceeds the scope of the hand held dictionaries. Many publishers of traditional printed dictionaries such as Langenscheidt, Collins-Reverso, OED – Oxford English Dictionary, Duden, American Heritage, and Hachette, offer their resources for use on desktop and laptop computers. These programs can either be downloaded or purchased on CD-ROM and installed. Other dictionary software is available from specialised electronic dictionary publishers such as iFinger, Abbyy Lingvo, Collins-Ultralingua, Mobile Systems and Paragon Software. Some electronic dictionaries provide an online discussion forum moderated by the software developers and lexicographers[4]

In East Asia[edit]

The well-known brands, such as Instant-Dict (快譯通), Besta (無敵), and Golden Global View (文曲星), includes basic functions like dictionaries, TTS, calculator, calendar etc. They also have functions other than just dictionary, for example, MP3 player, Video player, web browser (WiFi), and simple games. Some also support Adobe Flash (SWF files). Most of them usually will have a touch screen, Qwerty keyboard, a speaker, SD card slot, and sometimes microphone and camera also, for example, MD8500 from Instant-Dict. Their functions can even be comparable to smartphones, with the exception of phone capabilities since they do not have radios to make or receive phone calls.

Main functions[edit]

Handheld dictionaries or PEDs[edit]

Handheld electronic dictionaries, also known as "pocket electronic dictionaries" or PEDs, resemble miniature clamshell laptop computers, complete with full keyboards and LCD screens. Because they are intended to be fully portable, the dictionaries are battery-powered and made with durable casing material. Although produced all over the world, handheld dictionaries are especially popular in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, and neighbouring countries, where they are the dictionary of choice for many users learning English as a second language.[5] Some of the features of hand held dictionaries include stroke order animations, voice output, handwriting recognition for Kanji and Kana, language-learning programs, a calculator, PDA-like organizer functions, encyclopedias, time zone and currency converters, and crossword puzzle solvers. Dictionaries that contain data for several languages may have a "jump" or "skip-search" feature that allows users to move between the dictionaries when looking up words, and a reverse translation action that allows further look-ups of words displayed in the results. Many manufacturers produce hand held dictionaries that use licensed dictionary content[6] that use a database such as the Merriam Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus while others may use a proprietary database from their own lexicographers.[7] Many devices can be expanded for several languages with the purchase of additional memory cards. Manufacturers include AlfaLink, Atree, Besta, Casio, Canon, Instant Dict, Ectaco, Franklin, Iriver, Lingo, Maliang Cyber Technology, Compagnia Lingua Ltd., Nurian, Seiko, and Sharp.

In Japan[edit]

The market size as of 2014 was about 24.2 billion yen (= $227.1 million as of May/2016), although the market has been shrinking gradually from 2007[8] because of smartphones and tablet computers. The targeted customer base has been being shifted from business users to students.[9][10] Sony and Seiko have withdrawn from the market.[11][12] As of 2016, Casio had 59.3% of the market share, followed by Sharp with 21.5% and Canon with 19.2%.[13]

At 2016, Seiko announced that their mobile device apps on iPad iOS has been launched.[14]

Dictionaries on mobile devices[edit]

Dictionaries of all types are available as apps for smartphones and for tablet computers such as Apple's iPad, the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Motorola Xoom. The needs of translators and language learners are especially well catered for, with apps for bilingual dictionaries for numerous language pairs, and for most of the well-known monolingual learner's dictionaries such as the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English and the Macmillan English Dictionary.

Online dictionaries[edit]

There are several types of online dictionary,[15] including:

  • Aggregator sites, which give access to data licensed from various reference publishers. They typically offer monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, one or more thesauruses, and technical or specialized dictionaries. Examples include TheFreeDictionary.com and Dictionary.com
  • 'Premium' dictionaries available on subscription, such as the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Dictionaries from a single publisher, free to the user and supported by advertising. Examples include Collins Online Dictionary, Duden Online, Larousse bilingual dictionaries, the Macmillan English Dictionary, and the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.
  • Dictionaries available free from non-commercial publishers (often institutions with government funding). Examples include the Algemeen Nederlands Woordenboek [nl] (ANW), and Den Danske Ordbog [da].[16][17]

Some online dictionaries are regularly updated, keeping abreast of language change. Many have additional content, such as blogs and features on new words. Some are collaborative projects, most notably Wiktionary and the Collins Online Dictionary. And some, like the Urban Dictionary, consist of entries (sometimes self-contradictory) supplied by users. Many dictionaries for special purposes, especially for professional and trade terminology, and regional dialects and language variations, are published on the websites of organizations and individual authors. Although they may often be presented in list form without a search function, because of the way in which the information is stored and transmitted, they are nevertheless electronic dictionaries.


There are differences in quality of hardware (hand held devices), software (presentation and performance), and dictionary content. Some hand helds are more robustly constructed than others, and the keyboards or touch screen input systems should be physically compared before purchase. The information on the GUI of computer based dictionary software ranges from complex and cluttered, to clear and easy-to-use with user definable preferences including font size and colour.

A major consideration is the quality of the lexical database. Dictionaries intended for collegiate and professional use generally include most or all of the lexical information to be expected in a quality printed dictionary. The content of electronic dictionaries developed in association with leading publishers of printed dictionaries is more reliable that those aimed at the traveler or casual user, while bilingual dictionaries that have not been authored by teams of native speaker lexicographers for each language, will not be suitable for academic work. Some developers opt to have their products evaluated by an independent academic body such as the CALICO.

Another major consideration is that the devices themselves and the dictionaries in them are generally designed for a particular market. As an example, almost all handheld Japanese-English electronic dictionaries are designed for people with native fluency in Japanese who are learning and using English; thus, Japanese words do not generally include furigana pronunciation glosses, since it is assumed that the reader is literate in Japanese (headwords of entries do have pronunciation, however). Further, the primary manner to look up words is by pronunciation, which makes looking up a word with unknown pronunciation difficult (for example, one would need to know that 網羅 "comprehensive" is pronounced もうら, moura to look it up directly). However, higher end Japanese dictionaries include character recognition, so users (native speakers of Japanese or not) can look up words by writing the kanji.

Similar limitations exist in most two or multi-language dictionaries and can be especially crippling when the languages are not written in the same script or alphabet; it's important to find a dictionary optimized for the user's native language.

Integrated technology[edit]

Several developers of the systems that drive electronic dictionary software offer API and SDK – Software Development Kit tools for adding various language-based (dictionary, translation, definitions, synonyms, and spell checking and grammar correction) functions to programs, and web services such as the AJAX API used by Google. These applications manipulate language in various ways, providing dictionary/translation features, and sophisticated solutions for semantic search. They are often available as a C++ API, an XML-RPC server, a .NET API, or as a Python API for many operating systems (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc.) and development environments, and can also be used for indexing other kinds of data.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Nesi, H., 'Dictionaries in electronic form', in Cowie, A.P. (Ed.), The Oxford History of English Lexicography, Oxford University Press 2009: 458-478
  2. ^De Schryver, Gilles-Maurice, ‘Lexicographers’ dreams in the electronic dictionary age’, in International Journal of Lexicography, 16(2), 2003:143-199
  3. ^Atkins, S. & Rundell, M. The Oxford Guide to Practical Lexicography, Oxford University Press 2008: 238-246
  4. ^"Forums - Ultralingua". ultralingua.com. 13 March 2013.
  5. ^Chen, Yuzhen, 'Dictionary use and EFL learning: a contrastive study of pocket electronic dictionaries and paper dictionaries', in International Journal of Lexicography23 (3), 2010:275-306
  6. ^Franklin MWS-1840
  7. ^"Ultralingua Inc". ultralingua.com. 18 May 2013.
  8. ^"Changes of each year's electronic dictionary shipment"(PDF). Japan Business Machine and Information System Industries Association. 25 Feb 2015.
  9. ^"ネットで何でも検索できる時代 電子辞書は生き残れるのか(At era of internet search, how electronic dictionary survives)". 18 Oct 2014.
  10. ^"電子辞書、気が付けばカシオの独壇場(Electronic dictionary, suddenly noticed that Casio is leading the market)".
  11. ^"ソニー、電子辞書から撤退 (Sony withdraw from electronic dictionary)" (in Japanese). 7 Jul 2006.
  12. ^"Notice of Withdrawal from Electronic Dictionary Business". 7 Oct 2014.
  13. ^"BCN AWARD for Handheld electronic dictionaries".
  14. ^"大学生向け・高校生向けの電子辞書アプリとコンテンツのダウンロード販売を開始(: iOS dictionary apps for university and high school student has been launched and extra contents are available)". Seiko solutions inc. 5 Apr 2016. Retrieved 11 Jun 2016.
  15. ^Lew, Robert. ‘Online Dictionaries of English’ in Fuertes-Olivera, Pedro A. and Henning Bergenholtz (eds.), E-Lexicography: The Internet, Digital Initiatives and Lexicography. London/New York: Continuum, 2011: 230-250.
  16. ^Tiberius, C. and Niestadt, J. 'The ANW: an online Dutch dictionary', in Dykstra, A. and Schoonheim, T. (eds), Proceedings of the XIV Euralex Congress, Leewarden, 2010: 747-753
  17. ^Trap-Jensen, L., 'Access to Multiple Lexical Resources at a Stroke: Integrating Dictionary, Corpus and Wordnet Data', In Sylviane Granger, Magali Paquot (eds.), eLexicography in the 21st Century: New Challenges, New Applications Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2010:295-302
  18. ^Semantica S.A.
  19. ^Ultralingua Inc.

Media related to Electronic dictionaries at Wikimedia Commons

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Dictionary electronic handheld


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