I stumbled across a site that describes itself as an “incredibly fast dictionary”. It’s known as definr (http://definr.com/).
The first question I asked myself is whether we need yet another online dictionary. Some folks use Wiktionary, much like Wikipedia it’s only as accurate as the folks making the entries want it to be, so most folks probably leverage something they trust: Compact Oxford, American Heritage, Merriam-Webster’s to name a few.
Yes definr is fast, blazingly so partly because it caches the top 10,000 definitions in memory. It also tries to guess what you’re typing as you’re typing a word to search, by the time you click Enter it’s got a definition at the ready.
The quality of the answers is ok, nothing to write home about when I compared some sample words to three dictionaries I trust listed above, but it’s better than some. While it’s not the best, it is worth taking a look at in my opinion. The value of seeing it propose possible words as you’re typing is interesting because it offers me an opportunity to discover new words previously unknown to me and that gets me excited because I’m a word geek. For instance, when I tried testing it’s ability to handle Gen Y lexicon such as “Fark”, by the time I got to the ‘k’ it offered the word farkleberry. Where the heck else would I have been offered an opportunity to learn about the farkleberry and sparkleberry bushes from eastern United States? 🙂
BTW, ‘Fark’ was not in the definr dictionary, this is a good thing. The database is based on Princeton’s open WordNet 2.0, believe it or not you can download this lexical database yourself.
The verdict? I’m going to stick with OneLook as my first stop for dictionary searches, but I’m adding definr to my browser’s search plugins as a quick/available alternative because I think it has promise and it offers me a learning opportunity.
UPDATE Jan 2015:
Samuel Chong from Pasadena City College has assembled an amazing collection of wordnets for many languages. Check it out.