Fastest Ways to Look Up Word Definitions on Mac

Look Up Definitions Mac Featured

Apple’s built-in dictionary is one of those software pieces that everyone uses but never talks about. It’s an invaluable resource that doesn’t get nearly enough of the attention it deserves. The pop-up dictionary has been around for some time, yet millions of Mac users might be unaware it exists. How can you make the most of Apple’s dictionary functions? Let’s take a look at the fastest ways you can look up word definitions on Mac.

Built-in Shortcut

One of the fastest ways to look up a word definition on a Mac is built right into the software. It’s as easy pressing Command + Control + D on your keyboard. Whatever word is currently beneath the mouse cursor will have a pop-up appear with the definition(s).

Look Up Definitions Mac Command Shortcut

There are some caveats to this process, as it doesn’t work everywhere. On most browsers, it should work across the Web, but sites like Google Docs are seemingly excluded from the function.

Look Up Words

Alongside the keyboard shortcut, Apple also offers another quick way to quickly look up word definitions in apps or when browsing the Web.

1. When you are in an app or on a website, press the Control button on your keyboard and click on your left mouse button.

2. A shortcut menu will appear above the word. Select the first option: “Look Up.”

Look Up Definitions Mac Lookup

Inside the Look Up window, you have a number of options available:

1. Choose to see the full definition of a word. Just click “more” at the end of the shortened definition.

Look Up Definitions Mac Window

2. Opt to see the word in the default Dictionary app. Click “Open in Dictionary.”

Look Up Definitions Mac Open In Dictionary

3. If you want to see more information, select a category at the bottom of the pop-up. Alternatively, swipe left or right on the trackpad and move between various categories.

Look Up Definitions Mac Trackpad

4. Click on “Configure Dictionaries” and open the Dictionary preferences window. Select or deselect the various Dictionary sources. You have the option to choose a selected source to display pronunciations or which language you’d like to use to search Wikipedia.

Look Up Definitions Mac Configure

Set Your Own Keyboard Shortcut

While Apple’s existing keyboard shortcut suffices for short definitions, maybe you want something with a little more detail. In that case, you will need to establish your own keyboard shortcut for the Dictionary app.

1. Go to the Apple menu at the top-left side of the screen and open the “System Preferences” menu.

2. Click the keyboard option.

Look Up Definitions Mac Keyboard Preferences

3. You will now see five tabs at the top of the preferences screen. Click on “Shortcut,” the one in the middle.

Look Up Definitions Mac Shortcuts

4. On the left side of the next window, click on “Services.”

Look Up Definitions Mac Services

5. On the right side of the preferences, scroll until you find “Look Up in Dictionary.” To the right of that, it should say “none,” as no keyboard shortcut previously existed.

Look Up Definitions Mac Lookup Dictionary

6. You need to assign your preferred keyboard shortcut at this point. You can choose anything you like. For sample purposes, we’re choosing Command + Shift + Z.

Look Up Definitions Mac Command Z

7. Test the shortcut by opening any site or a Google search and clicking on any word. Activate your keyboard shortcut command, and it should open the Dictionary app.

Apple’s Dictionary app remains a staple of the macOS system and allows you to easily look up word definitions on Mac. There are plenty more tricks to the Dictionary app, though. Learn about customizing the Dictionary app here.

David Joz
David Joz

David is a freelance tech writer with over 15 years of experience in the tech industry. He loves all things Nintendo.

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