As Production Editor of PC Advisor, it's my job to know about words. But with the Oxford English Dictionary containing full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and estimating a total of around three quarters of a million words in the English language, I'll never know each and every one by heart.
That's not to say I shouldn't try: language is an invaluable commodity. If I'm feeling too weak to leaf through the pages of the enormous dictionary sitting beside me on the desk, online dictionaries such as Dictionary.com can be a useful tool. Better still is the website's mobile app, though. See also: Best Android Apps.
Dictionary.com's mobile app has some great features that encourage you to not only learn how to spell and pronounce new words, but understand them too. In addition to providing phonetic pronunciation instructions, its use of text-to-speech is particularly useful: if you aren't sure how to spell a word you can enter it vocally, or you can click a speaker icon to hear a word's correct pronunciation read aloud. No paper dictionary we've seen does that.
You can also click the Daily tab to view Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day', in both (US) English and Spanish. Also here is a 'Question of the Day', which looks at the differences between similar words, such as intense and intensive, while 'The Hot Word' answers questions relating to language in general, such as why some languages are written from left to right and others right to left, why upper-case letters look so different from their lower-case counterparts, and why we capitalise the word 'I'. See also: Best Android Apps.
For standard dictionary entries, Dictionary.com offers information about their origin and other words with which they can be confused. You can share an entry via Facebook, Twitter, email and SMS, set favourites and go back to those you've recently viewed.
The ability to drag a yellow bar across the top of the screen to view synonyms and antonyms listed at Thesaurus.com will be particularly useful for those completing crosswords or scratching their heads in recalling a word that's on the tip of their tongue.
The nosy neighbour within us particularly liked the app's ability to reveal trending words. These are sorted into those trending now, those that are consistently popular and, best of all, those being searched for locally. We were able to view what terms people had searched for as points on a map. For instance, down the road from us at St Pancras Library someone had searched for 'apostrophe', while just around the corner in Chalton Street someone else had looked up 'hypocrite'. It's important to note that Dictionary.com doesn't give out any information that would allow someone to work out who you are, and each point on the map is a rough estimate based on your coarse (network-based) location.
Our main quibble with Dictionary.com is its US bias. We know the difference between favour and favor, centre and center, colour and color, analyse and analyze, travelled and traveled… Not all UK Android users do. Despite the different spellings the meaning is the same, of course, and surely that's what's important.
We'd also like to see Dictionary.com work without requiring an active internet connection, although its collection of 375,000 words and definitions and 300,000 synonyms and antonyms could consume a large chunk of your smartphone or tablet's storage space.
Unlike many of the dictionary apps available for Android, you'll find no one-week trial here: Dictionary.com is free to use, but places small banner ads at the bottom of the screen. An ad-free version costs £1.90, but we didn't find they got in our way.