iOS 5 Tip: How to Launch the New Built-in Dictionary on the iPhone or iPad

In Apple, Application, Cellular, Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Software by Michael Sheehan13 Comments

I keep uncovering lots of little surprises in Apple’s new iOS 5 software released this week for the iPhone & iPad. Yesterday, it was the activation of the camera button on the iPhone’s lock screen. This one is just as useful and is extremely helpful. Included in the OS is now a full-fledged dictionary (that even looks like the dictionary you would find on a Mac).


The dictionary seems to be enabled throughout the system which means that it is at your beck and call, whether you are reading an article in Safari or editing an email or document. While you can’t always get it to launch in all applications (for example, the Facebook and Twitter apps don’t seem to allow the “Define” button to launch because of the way the text is displayed and selected), most of the reading and writing applications do have this ability.

To activate the new built-in dictionary, simply press and hold briefly your finger on a word until it is highlighted. Then you will probably see “Copy” and “Define” (and some other options if you are editing an email, for example, like rich text formatting). Then just click on the Define button and the definition of the highlighted word will appear.


I thought that it was appropriate to check to see if this dictionary had some Apple flair to it so I found a web page that had the word “iCloud” and lo and behold, there was the definition! The typography style of this dictionary is pretty much identical to that which is found on the Mac (below).


This type of feature makes the iPhone or iPad even more of a useful device, especially for students, writers or people who do a lot of reading. It’s nice that the dictionary is pervasive across the system and while it doesn’t work with every application or website, I believe that a majority of these are supported. The dictionary is even “smart” in that words that it doesn’t know, it ignores, as it does with proper names. When you highlight a word that is not in the dictionary, you will simply not see the “Define” button.

Kudos to Apple for including this useful feature.

HTD says: What other goodies have you uncovered in iOS 5?