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Quick Search

What is a Quick search?

The quick search finds main dictionary entries, such as alphabet, break, xylophone. It also finds phrases and compounds listed within main entries, such as to look up or alphabet book and variant spellings such as dictionarie.

The Quick search box is in the centre left of the Home page and at the top of every other page of the dictionary.

Running a Quick search

  1. Type or paste the word you want to find in the Search box.
  2. Click  or press Enter.
  3. A list of results is displayed, or, if there is a single result, the entry is displayed automatically.
  4. Click on any of the results to open its entry.
  • A quick search will find your term if it is a main entry, subentry, or variant spelling. The quick search will not recognize a misspelling. If you do not know how to spell a word, you can use a wildcard in your search.
  • If you do not find the word you are looking for, go to ‘widen search’, or try an Advanced search, as your word may be found in an etymology or quotation.
  • In a Quick search, it is not necessary to type punctuation or worry about capital letters or hyphens. See also Accents, hyphens, and special characters.
  • You can use wildcards in your search term if you wish.

More on searching:

Results list
If there is more than one match to a search, these are shown in the results list. Use the list to move to the entries you want to see.

Using wildcards
You can make your search more complex by using the wildcards * and ?. Wildcards are useful if you want to search for several terms with the same stem or if you don't know exactly how your term is spelled.

Accents, hyphens, and special characters
How to search for accented characters and hyphenated terms. In any search you can type your search term in any combination of upper and lower case letters.

Advanced search
A Quick search looks for main entries, compounds, and variant spellings only. To search the entire dictionary text for a term, use an Advanced search. An Advanced search allows you to search a particular type of dictionary text (e.g. quotation text) and/or to search for words that occur near one another.

Quick search results

  • If there is one result for your search, the entry opens automatically.
  • If there is more than one result, a Results list is displayed. Click on any of the headwords to open the entry.
  • If there are no matching results, you are offered a list of closest matches alphabetically.

Quick search results list

Each of the results consists of a headword and an excerpt from the first definition of the entry or subentry. Click on any of the headwords in the list to open its entry. To view the next entry in the list, click Next ». To return to the results list, click Back to Results.

To move to the next or previous page in the Results list, click Next » or « Previous.

Jump to alphabetical point in the results list

To move quickly to a point in the results list, type the letter you want into this input box and click . E.g. typing g moves the list to the first matching entry beginning with g.

Sorting results

Results are listed in alphabetical order (by headword).

You can also choose to order them by date of first use. Click Date.

The standard number of results is 20 per page, but you can alter this (up to a maximum of 100) by clicking one of the Items per page options.

Viewing timeline results

To view results in the form of a Timeline, click Timeline.

The results are displayed as a graph illustrating their usage by century. Move the cursor over a bar to view the results for that time period, and follow the link back to the results if you wish.

Widening your search

The results of a Quick search are main entries. The Widen search? option is a quick way of extending your search to phrases, definitions, etymologies, or the full text. Click on any of the text areas (e.g. » definitions) to display matching results.

Refining your search

There are two ways to refine your results:

  1. Filtering them using the Refine by filters to the right of the results list. You can narrow down your results to only those matching a specific part of speech, subject, date, etc.
  2. Using the Refine search option to run an Advanced search on the results lists.

      More on results

      Advanced search results

      Printing results

      Emailing results

      Saving results


What is a wildcard?

A wildcard is a symbol which stands for any character. You can include wildcards in a Quick search or an Advanced search to make your search more flexible.

Two wildcards are available:

  • The question mark ? represents the occurrence of any one single character
  • The asterisk * represents the occurrence of any number of characters (or no character at all)

A search with a wildcard retrieves all results which contain matching terms. For example

  • c?t finds cat, cot, cut
  • c*t finds cat, caught, commencement, conflict, consent, cot, cut, etc.

Using wildcards in a search

Wildcards are useful if you do not know how to spell a word, if you are not sure in what form the term you want appears in the dictionary, or if you want to find several terms beginning with the same root.

  • The search term *sychok?n?s?s finds psychokinesis
  • The term colo*r matches color and colour
  • The term chorograph* finds chorographer, chorographic, chorographical, chorographically

Searching for a phrase

You can search for a phrase (e.g. eat humble pie) in both Quick and Advanced searches.

Type the phrase into the Search box and start the search in the usual way.

Search tips

  • An Advanced search looks for your phrase in the entire text of the dictionary, so this may be the most efficient search to choose.
  • If you are not sure in exactly what form your phrase may appear in the dictionary, consider an Advanced search for more than one term (e.g. humble Near pie).

Upper and lower case

You do not need to distinguish between upper and lower-case letters in your search term. Typing Conservative, conservative, or CONSERVATIVE returns the same results.

However, if you do want to take case into account, use Advanced search and click the Case-sensitive checkbox. When the box is checked the search term Conservative finds only Conservative.

Accents, hyphens, and special characters

You do not need to enter accented letters in order to find words which contain accents.

  • A search for cafe finds cafe, café, Cafe, Café, CAFE, CAFÉ.

Use Advanced search if you want to find a specific accented or hyphenated term.

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Quick Search