How to quickly look up a word in dictionary (Mac OS X)

As a non native English reader, I often feel looking up words manually in dictionary or websites are not fast enough. Fortunately, there are some better ways to do this and I’ll share it for you guys!

Here I have my 2 preferred ways.

1. Popup (using Command-Control-D)

This handy built-in system wide OS X shortcut is very handy. Best of all, no need to configure anything. Just highlight a word, press Command-Control-D, and the definitions will pop right on your face! The dictionary it uses seems to be everything you set in the OS X’s Dictionary app.

Mac OS X Built-in dictionary popup

2. Opening Dictionary app (using your assigned shortcut key)

This one I personally prefer because it has a larger text compared to the first option (lol). But you’ll need to set up a shortcut key for “Services > Look up in Dictionary”. Here are the steps.

  • Open System Preferences app, go to Keyboard section
  • Click Shortcuts tab
  • On the left side, click Services
  • On the right side, click Searching > Look Up in Dictionary
  • Assign your preferred shortcut key (I personally use Command-Shift-X)
Assigning shortcut key for “Look Up in Dictionary” service in System Preferences in OS X El Capitan
Hit your assigned shortcut, and Dictionary app fires up!
Bonus! You can manually add more dictionary sets to the Dictionary app. You can download a good English-Thai dictionary from or

That’s it. Hope this will boost up your learning productivity as it did for me. If there’s a faster way, you MUST let me know! Thanks!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.