On an initial viewing Wordnik appears to be a dictionary but upon further investigation it is not. In their own words

“Wordnik is not a traditional dictionary (in fact, we’ve seriously considered not calling Wordnik a dictionary at all)”.

The fact of the matter is that Wordnik is a dictionary on steroids that uses words and definitions that are in “traditional” dictionaries and ones that have not made it there yet. It also works much like Wikipedia allowing users to record pronunciation, add images, give their own definitions.
So what good is it then? There are tons of dictionaries on the internet how does this help me? Well what Wordnik does have going for it is a great way of looking at words beyond their definition, synonyms and antonyms. It looks at word relationships and knows when words end up in the same sentence more often than not like for instance:

“cheeseburger, milkshake, and doughnut are not synonyms, but they show up in the same kinds of sentences.”

Now before you get all huffy and start saying “If it is not official dictionary words and definitions then I don’t want my students even harboring the idea of using it”. Oh on the contrary, here is a list of some of the features that Wordnik employs.

  • Dictionary definitions from multiple official sources like American Heritage and Webster.
  • Statistics and meaningful information on the frequency and use patters of a word over the past 200+ years
  • Real world examples in articles, books, quotes and other great resources to show how professional authors use the word
  • Real world examples for social media like Twitter to show how the everyday person uses the word
  • The etymology of the word
  • Related words such as synonyms
  • Words used in the same context, like the word fries is paired with burger
  • Audio Pronunciation
  • Chart of other forms of a word and their usage.

As you can see Wordnik is a very useful un-dictionary that can easily be integrated into yours and your students every day search for knowledge because we don’t know all the words out there.

How can I use this in education?

Use it like any other dictionary but because of its nature it adds so much more information that can be grasped if you only want to have it. For instance I really enjoy knowing the etymology of words but rarely seek out any of it, now whenever I want a word definition I use Wordnik and get a plethora of value added information that fills that void. So you can use it for yourself and/or pass it along to your students and let them enjoy it, hey you never know maybe they will start using actual words instead of instant messaging lingo :)