The COBUILD dictionary is now available online for FREE!

When the first COBUILD dictionary was published in 1987, it revolutionized dictionaries for learners. It was the first of a new generation of dictionaries that were based on real examples of English rather than on compilers’ intuition – the type of English that people speak and write every day.

Now, more than 20 years later, we’ve decided to take another revolutionary step and make the COBUILD dictionary available online for free!

cobuilddictionaryonline is the COBUILD Dictionary’s new online home. By clicking on the ‘English for Learners’ tab, you’ll find definitions and examples specifically geared towards English language learners. The dictionary is perfect for demonstrating vocabulary to your class on the Smart Board, or to look up new words.

What does COBUILD mean? Watch the video below to find out.


How can the COBUILD Dictionary online help learners of English?

Frequent words

About 90% of spoken and written English is made up of approximately 3,500 words. These words are the most important ones for learners of English to remember. All the words on are therefore ranked by the ‘word frequency’ bar on the right-hand side of the page, which tells the user how frequent a word is.

Changing meanings tells us how the meanings of words change over time. The word cloud, for example, was mainly used in its meteorological sense before 2008. In recent years, cloud, in the sense of web-based storage for files, has become frequent along with new collocations (cloud computing) and new phrases (in the cloud). To help learners, the COBUILD dictionary online always shows the most common sense of each word first.

How can you use the COBUILD dictionary online in the classroom?

Practising pronunciation

Find definitions of several pairs of words that are visually similar but pronounced differently on – ‘through’ and ‘though’, perhaps – and ask your students to listen to the pronunciation of each word on the site. Then project various definitions on the board and invite students to pronounce the words correctly in front of the whole class. You could divide students into teams and allocate points to give the activity a competitive edge!

Understanding British and American English

To demonstrate differences between British and American English, you could show students a selection of words that have different spellings in American English, e.g. colour, centre, etc., and instruct them to use the website to discover the American spelling. This might be particularly useful to Business English students.

DON’T FORGET! Our COBUILD dictionaries and grammar books are also available in print form! Have a look at the COBUILD page on our website for more information.

Cobuild Phrasal Verbs Dictionary  COBUILD English Usage Cobuild Idioms Dictionary