How to quickly look up a word in macOS dictionary

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! I have 2 ways.

1. The built-in “cmd-ctrl-D” shortcut

This handy built-in system wide OS X shortcut is very handy. Just press it and the definitions will pop right on your face. It seems to show all the languages in your normal Dictionary app.

Mac OS X Built-in dictionary popup

2. Set your own shortcut for Dictionary app

This one I personally prefer because it has a larger text compared to the first option (lol). But you’ll need to set it up manually.

  • 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!