Look Up Words Instantly – Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition

Tip 210Look Up Words Instantly

One of my favorite features of my Mac is the Dictionary application, which, just like its dusty, shelf-bound companions, allows you to look up the definitions of words.

However, there’s no need to go to the trouble of actually starting the app to look up definitions. It can be called from within other applications in various ways.

Using Spotlight

Typing a word or short phrase into Spotlight will return a definition, for example, although it will appear beneath all the files and folders that match the search term, alongside a Look Up heading.

If you then hover the mouse cursor over this entry, a pop-out window will appear showing the definition. Double-click the pop-out window to open the Dictionary app showing the word.

Right-Clicking for Definitions

In some apps, you can right-click a word and select the Look Up option from the menu that appears. Alternatively, you can highlight a word and click the application menu and then click ServicesLook Up in Dictionary.

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

In some apps, you can hover the mouse cursor over a word and then hit Control+Command+D to see a pop-out window showing the definition of the word (see Figure 37, Looking up a word instantly). This works largely in built-in OS X apps like Safari.


Figure 37. Looking up a word instantly

Gesturing for Word Lookup

If you use a multitouch trackpad, you can also hover the mouse cursor over a word and tap with three fingers bunched together (tap, not click!). This will cause a pop-out window to appear, showing the definition along with a Thesaurus lookup (if one exists) and a Wikipedia entry (again, if there is one for that word). To get rid of the pop-up window, just click anywhere outside of the pop-out. Looking up words this way takes some practice to do right, and it can take a few seconds for the pop-up to appear.

By clicking any of the headings in the pop-out window, such as Dictionary, Thesaurus, or Wikipedia, you’ll instantly be switched to the Dictionary app showing the relevant entry for that word, with the window scrolled to the Dictionary, Thesaurus, or Wikipedia section, depending on which heading you clicked.