Home > Product Reviews > Kindle part 2: dictionary

Kindle part 2: dictionary

One of the great features of the Kindle device is the built in dictionary.  How many times as you were reading a book have you found a word you didn’t know or weren’t completely sure of the meaning, but just kept reading because locating a dictionary really wasn’t worth the trouble?

Most recently, I have been reading King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard.  Because it was first published in 1885, written by an Englishman, and set in the southern tip of Africa, unfamiliar words are relatively common:  kloof (steep-sided, wooded ravine), mealie (South African sweet corn), eland (spiral horned antelope), gaiters (leggings to cover the ankle and lower leg), and kraal (traditional African village of huts) to name a few.

The dictionary also has an admittedly rudimentary list of proper names as well, so Natal, Hottentot, and Kafir are also defined.

Using the dictionary while reading a book

On the Kindle 3, you’ll use its 5-way controller to move the cursor to the word in question.  A short pause automatically displays a 2-line definition.  I’ve found these physical buttons to be very quick and accurate, rather than attempting to use other devices’ touch screens, which can be awkward or which may select the wrong word.

One of the things I most like about the Kindle’s dictionary interface is the quick 2-line definition.  This definition will appear either at the bottom of the screen or at the top, depending on where the word in context was located (ie., if the word is at the bottom of the screen, the Kindle displays the definition at the top so that you can review both the definition and the original sentence together).  Most of the time, this short description is enough, so you can immediately go back to reading.  If not, however, merely hit the return carriage arrow key to get a fuller definition, complete with phonetics, special usages, and etymology.  To go back to the text, click the Back button.

While the full definition is displayed, you can also search other databases by hitting the right arrow key.  Search engines include my items, the Kindle store, Google, and Wikipedia (obviously you’ll need a wifi connection or 3G enabled to search the online sources).

Changing which dictionary is used by the Kindle

For the English language on the Kindle 3, two dictionaries are provided by default:  The New Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of English.

To switch which dictionary that the software uses when looking up a word:

  1. Click on the Home button so that you see the list of books or collections on the Kindle
  2. Next, click on the Menu button and select “Settings” from the dropdown list.  This will open the Settings screen.
  3. Lastly, click on the Menu button again and select “Change Primary Dictionary”.
  4. All of the dictionaries which were loaded with the software or purchased from the Kindle store will be displayed.  Select the one you want and you’re done!

Surprisingly, I’ve found these dictionaries to be complete enough to answer most questions.

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