Look It Up! With Macquarie Dictionary Online

Languages are living things. New words are born and existing words acquire new meanings to keep pace with our changing society, while others quietly go the way of the dinosaur after decades of disuse. Get an Australian perspective on our ever-evolving language with Macquarie Dictionary Online, a free resource with your State Library membership.

First published in print in 1981, The Macquarie Dictionary is regarded as the standard reference on Australian English, and the Macquarie Dictionary Online provides access to a regularly updated Australian English database.

What do I look up?

It must be a problem as old as the dictionary itself - all the words of the language at your fingertips, but what word to look up first? Macquarie offers an innovative solution to this conundrum in the form of its (somewhat mesmerising) ‘Word Cloud’, a dynamically swirling ball of the most searched words of the week. You can serendipitously click on terms that catch your eye to view their definitions, and you can even manipulate the movement of the ball with your cursor.

Hypnotic and serendipitously educational – the Word Cloud

The Word of the Year is...

The site offers some other very engaging content, including the announcement of the ‘Word of the Year’, which as you’d expect holds up a mirror to our society and all its current trends, technological advancements and newsworthy events. A few examples of words that made the shortlist in 2020 include (predictably) ‘rona’ (an abbreviation of ‘coronavirus’), ‘doomscrolling’ (continuing to read a social media newsfeed despite the fact that the content is mostly negative) and my personal favourite, ‘sky puppy’ (a bat, especially a flying fox). Really, we all need to be saying, ‘sky puppy’ more often - it can only be good for the world.

A sky puppy

All about words

You’ll find insightful content on the origin of words and how we use language, including blog posts that offer culturally-specific background about an Australian word or phrase of the week, and ‘Word for Word’, a podcast where linguists and academics are tapped for their knowledge on the many ways that we use, abuse and change language.

Visit words where they live

The Australian Word Map tool is a fun way to explore regionalisms using an interactive map. As I’m originally from Adelaide, I was amused by the inclusion of the (grammatically dubious) phrase ‘heaps good’. The size of the collection of terms presented here is er... very good.

The Australian Word Map tool – heaps good

So much more!

There are also some great resources that school teachers would no doubt find extremely useful, including comprehensive grammar and punctuation guides, an exhaustive list of common abbreviations and fun resources to help you solve crossword puzzles.

And for all those times when you just can't seem to find the right word? You can also make use of the online companion reference, the Macquarie Thesaurus.

Macquarie Dictionary Online is available to use free with your State Library membership. To access it, log in to OneSearch and search the catalogue for ‘Macquarie Dictionary Online’, then click on the link in the ‘suggested database’.


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