There are actually Wiktionaries for many languages and the English Wiktionary also defines and translates words of many other languages. But ignoring these other languages, have you tried the English Wiktionary and do you find it to be a good writers' resource? What are its best and worst points in this regard?

  • This needs to be re-phrased to be on-topic. As it stands it is a poll-like question. Please rephrase it to meet the guidelines.
    – justkt
    May 9, 2011 at 16:59
  • 2
    IMHO this should go to english.SE May 9, 2011 at 18:02
  • I voted to close and migrate to English. I suspect they'll close it or at least downvote it unless you make the question more specific. For example, a good resource for what audience? (Saying "writers", which is assumed here on Writers.SE isn't very specific.) Perhaps you could ask what Wikitionary is particularly strong at. May 9, 2011 at 23:22
  • Yes I wasn't sure where to ask it. I read some similar topics on english.SO that said certain types of questions regarding dictionaries belonged here and that the resources tag was specifically for the purpose. I also read the FAQ here which didn't mention polls specifically but they are permitted on StackOverflow so I thought I'd just give it a try. May 10, 2011 at 2:30
  • @Neil: Wiktionary is a "generalist dictionary" that tries to cover everything. So if it does its job well it should be useful to all kinds of writers. It is good at synonyms, alternative spellings, obsolete terms, derived and related terms, and rhymes. Its other strong point for the audience here is that anyone can fix any errors they find or add what's missing. May 10, 2011 at 2:36

2 Answers 2


I've tried the Wiktionary and I really like some aspects of it, like having all the different regionalisms listed next to each other. (eg. 'fanny' has both the benign North American definition and the less-innocent UK version).

But sometimes I go to a dictionary in need of an authority. You know... 'Webster's says..." or "According to the OED...", and the Wiktionary doesn't serve too well for that purpose.

So, for me, it's a good resource if I'm looking for basic word meanings for my own understanding, but it doesn't work as well if I'm trying to convince someone else of what a word means.

  • Online sources, for the most part, have not proven themselves in the academic world and should not be referenced on academic papers. There are of course some sites that are recognized, but amongst the types that are seeing issues gaining academic recognition are any type of Wiki based site.
    – MaQleod
    May 9, 2011 at 17:49
  • Online sources are perfectly valid in academic circles, as long as the source is something that's credible. You wouldn't cite a Wikipedia article, but you could certainly cite one from Energy.gov or from the academic databases provided by libraries. May 10, 2011 at 3:46

Here's the perspective of an editor who does some writing on the side:

It depends on what you need in a dictionary. When editing UK writers, I usually use Cambridge, I think I'd continue to use that or Merriam-Webster when trying to convince a writer, I do not think the word you used means what you think it means.

Technical writers or those in other specialized fields might want a different dictionary altogether. Academic writers should be using whatever dictionary their institution favors. If you're writing or editing to a particular style guide, that guide will have a preferred dictionary. (For example. AP uses Webster, Chicago is fine with either Webster or Merriam-Webster.)

As to how useable it is for everyday work, I'd rather use Cambridge or Webster. Both have easier-to-use interfaces, and Wikitionary often feels a bit like overkill to me. It tends to dwell on etymology and sourcing a bit too much to be practical for what I do. It might be a good place to get the general idea of a word, similar to how Wikipedia is a good place to go to start research on an unfamiliar topic.

In summary, while I wouldn't use it as an authority, but it has a place in my Editing > Dictionaries bookmarks folder.

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