Your iPhone and iPad come with built-in features that allow you to look up word definitions without the need of third-party apps or services. In this guide, we will show you two ways you can use your iPhone or iPad to define words.

How to define words on iPhone or iPad

The first method requires you to type in a word. For instance, if you’re having dinner with friends, and someone uses a fancy word you’re not familiar with, you can quickly grab your iPhone and type in that word to get its definition.

1) On your iPhone or iPad, swipe right over the Lock screen or Home screen to bring up the Today View.

2) Type the word you want to define.

Note: As you can see on the image above, when you first start typing the word, you might get a bunch of Siri suggestions, but I find these to be inconsistent and sometimes require to load up a webpage. In contrast, the solution shared above is reliable, and can work even if you aren’t connected to the internet.

3) Scroll all the way to the bottom of your search results and look for the Dictionary section.

4) Tap on the Dictionary box to get a full definition of the word.

How to get the definition of a word you see on your screen

The first method was good if you wanted to type the word, but what if you see that word in an app, such as the Mail app, or Safari? There is a faster way to define that word.

1) In apps that allow you to, tap and hold your finger on a word you want to define. This will highlight the word, and a small menu will appear above it.

Note that not all apps support text selection. For those that don’t, simply use the method above to get the definition of the word you’re looking for.

2) Tap on Look Up.

3) Your iPhone or iPad will likely display several options, and the Dictionary should be the first one. Tap on it to have a full definition of the word.


Unless you consider yourself a wordsmith and need more advanced features, the built-in dictionary of your iPhone or iPad should suffice. If that isn’t the case, have a look at our list of the best dictionary apps for iPhone. You’ll certainly find more full-featured alternatives there.

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  • bigkool2

    there are so many little things like this that smartphones can do that most people don’t know about o do know about but never think to use them..

    I tell my wife so may times a week ” why don’t you just use or phone to do that” because it never crosses her mind to..

  • igobythisname

    is there an iOS requirement for this? it’s pretty common for you guys to post features and not mention that fact. I have a jailbreak tweak installed on iOS 10 so I can use spotlight to look up the definition of words.

    • BasedOnAir

      What’s that tweak called? I can’t get this dictionary entry to show up on ios10. Is this an ios11 only thing? What’s the name of your tweak?

      • igobythisname

        it must be an iOS 11 feature that they’re posting about. the tweak is called ‘Spodify’; the dev is ‘ridn’ and you have to add his repo in order to get it..

      • BasedOnAir

        Thanks. Does it cause spotlight lag like the description warns?

      • igobythisname

        I don’t care for the urban dictionary feature so I’m running the initial release. Install it then downgrade. I haven’t noticed any significant lag.

      • igobythisname

        repo is ridn . me / repo

    • These posts always assume you are running the latest software version

  • igobythisname

    My pleasure, you’re welcome!