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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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2.3 Finding and understanding specific information about a word

In the next activity you will practise finding information about a word.

Activity 4

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Look again at the list of dictionaries displayed by OneLook when you entered the word ‘strategy’. Find the Macmillan dictionary definition of the word ‘strategy’ in the list of general dictionaries. Note down the kind of information it provides. How can each piece of information be useful to you?

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Described image
Figure 2 The Macmillan Dictionary information about the word strategy

This dictionary provides:

  • Two definitions. This word has two meanings, so two definitions are given.
  • Frequency of use. Three stars indicate that strategy is one of the 7500 most used words.
  • Grammatical information. Strategy is a noun and can be both countable and uncountable. The meaning of countable and uncountable will be explained in the following section.
  • Word forms. For this word, the dictionary gives the singular form (strategy) and the plural form (strategies). This information is very useful when using words that have unusual plural forms such as man (singular) and men (plural) or analysis (singular) and analyses (plural).
  • Pronunciation. By clicking on the British or American flag, you will be able to look up the British English and the American English pronunciation as, occasionally, these can be different.
  • Origin of the word. The word ‘strategy’ comes from Greek and French. If you know either or both these languages, this information can help you to better understand and remember the word strategy.
  • Examples. These are very useful examples that can help you to see how this word is normally used in the context of a phrase or sentence.
  • Some collocations. These are words that normally precede or follow the word ‘strategy’. For example, ‘devise a strategy’, ‘plan a strategy’ and ‘adopt a strategy’ are common combinations of words. This information helps if you need to use this word in your own writing.
  • Synonyms. These can be found by clicking on the red symbol ‘T’ (Thesaurus). You may need to find synonyms if you need to paraphrase a text or wish to refer to something in a variety of ways throughout your essay. More synonyms can be found by looking up the word in a specialised website such as [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]


This is very useful information if you want to use a word in your own writing. While it is not necessary to look up all this information, it is important to know that dictionaries provide it and that these are available online. Many of the dictionaries listed by are also available in hard copy.