Instant Access to Dictionary and Thesaurus in Mac OS X Mail

Find Definitions for Words Instantly

Look up words in the dictionary fast from OS X Mail. © Jonathan Gray; CC BY-SA 2.0 license

A dictionary is the language user's best friend, and a thesaurus is the dictionary's soul mate. As you read and write emails (the occasional picture is okay), would it not be nice to have at hand a dictionary to define words, guide pronunciation and elucidate etymologies as well as a thesaurus to find the right word by way of synonyms and antonyms?

Mac OS X comes with The New Oxford American Dictionary and The Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus built in. Mac OS X Mail makes accessing these powerful tools particularly easy.

Get Instant Access to Dictionary and Thesaurus in Mac OS X Mail

To instantly access dictionary and thesaurus in Mac OS X Mail:

  1. Place the mouse cursor over the desired word.
  2. Press Command-Ctrl-D (think define).
    • You can also tap with three fingers on the trackpad (with Look up & data detectors enabled in Trackpad preferences).
  3. Go to the Dictionary tab if you see it at the bottom of the definition window.
  4. In Mail 2:
    • To access the thesaurus, select Oxford Thesaurus from the Oxford Dictionary drop-down menu.
    • To see derivatives, origins, and phrases, click More….

Look Up Multiple Words in a Row in Mail 2

This shortcut to the dictionaries works both when you read and when you compose messages. To look up multiple words quickly, keep Command-Ctrl pressed as you move the mouse cursor over desired words (you can release the D key).

The same keyboard combination also brings up definitions in many other Mac OS X applications (e.g. Safari).

(Tested with OS X Mail 9)