Finally, a dictionary with a soul.

Our dictionary was written for humans, by humans. Look up a word, and you’ll read a friendly explanation that you'll actually remember. It’s as if your favorite teacher were explaining it to you.

Real world examples, hot off the presses.

Read thousands of example sentences from current newspapers, magazines, and literature. We show you how words live in the wild and give you usage tips so that you're more confident about using the words you learn.

Try the world’s smartest, fastest dictionary.

Find the word you’re looking for faster than with any other online dictionary. Just start typing a word and our dictionary will display the most likely results. We want you to find the word’s definition as quickly as possible, without having to look through a lot of clutter.


A subsidy is a grant of financial assistance. Many school districts, for example, offer a subsidy to low-income families for book fees and lunch costs. The family pays a set amount and the district makes up the difference.

The noun subsidy comes from French and Latin roots that mean "help and aid." Subsidies are most often offered by the government, but individuals can offer subsidies as well. "The parents offered to give a subsidy for students to go on the ski trip. The deal was that if the kids earned half the money, the parents would pay for the other half."

Choose your words

Caught between words? Learn how to make the right choice.

gig/ jig

Gig with a hard "g" is a job. Jig, on the other hand, is a dance. The kind a band might do when they land a gig headlining Madison Square Garden.

hale/ hail

Hale describes someone hearty and healthy. Rarr. All hail the next word! To hail is to greet enthusiastically. And when it hails, ice falls from the sky and hits those hale people on the head.

optimistic/ pessimistic

An optimistic person expects all the best things to happen! Is it raining money yet? A pessimistic person is a downer. Who cares if it's raining money? They'll never get any.

weather/ whether/ wether

The weather outside is partly cloudy whether you like it that way or not. A wether, on the other hand, is a castrated sheep. You read that right. read more...

pretentious/ portentous

Fake mobsters in suits and spats are pretentious. But a horse head in your bed? That's portentous. And also, call the police. read more...

fictional/ fictitious/ fictive

Fictional, fictive, and fictitious all branch off the "fiction" tree, but fictional is literary, fictive is specific, and fictitious is just plain fake. read more...

See all Choose Your Words articles »
Header Photo Credit: Ben Cooper, Launch Photography

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a life-long learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.