Words are awesome. For writers they're meat and drink, bread and butter, and everything else that goes on the dinner table. But even writers run into words we've never seen before, and at times like that Google Search is an awesome tool for expanding my vocabulary. Google Search just got a little better, because the definition cards have been updated to include word origins and their usage over time.

2013-08-22 21.51.28 2013-08-22 22.11.58

The origins aren't just a simple footnote, either, such as "Germanic" or "Latin." No, we're talking full trees of information, with base words, root words, prefixes, suffixes, alternate forms, transliterations, and all kinds of other goodies. The usage over time graph shows how long the word has been in common usage, and it's also a pretty good indicator of whether you'll be able to use it in conversation without getting stared at.

The full origin tree isn't available for all words, but it should give you a place to start if you're trying to boost your word power. Some words also get synonyms, antonyms, and formal or informal usages. To see the new information, just tap the "more" button after searching for a relatively uncommon word. If the definition card doesn't appear, just re-enter your query with "define" before it. Curious about pronunciation? Tap the little speaker icon next to the phonetic spelling to have Google say it out loud.

Update: Sorry international readers. This feature is only active in the U.S. at the moment.

Source: Google+

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Jdban

    This is a serverside update, not an app update, yes?

    • cabbiebot

      Yes. I just searched for "piscatorial" and it shows up just like it does in Jeremiah's post.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii


  • Callum

    So many Google app updates!!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Just a server-side one here this time.

  • TheWhiteLotus

    Isn't this just Google Search and not Google Now?

    • Zargh

      Blame Motorola for making the touchless control hotword for Voice Search/Actions "OK Google Now".

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii


    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Yup, it's Search, especially since it's also on the web on desktops.

  • Cabrini Greene

    How does this work?

    • Zargh

      Type "define: [word]" into a Desktop/Mobile/App Google search box (and expand the card if necessary).

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Or "[word] definition." And sometimes you don't need to type anything at all - just the word, depending on how uncommon it is.

  • Paul_Werner

    Not to thread jack or anything but did anyone notice that http://www.google.com/talk redirects to http://www.google.com/hangouts/ now?

  • MrJamesBrown

    Doesn't seem to be working for me on the UK with the latest search app :[

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      US only.

      • MrJamesBrown

        Well that is shit

        • Ivan

          Settings / Privacy and accounts / Search on Google.com

          • Joris Griffioen

            Yes, this works in the Netherlands. Thanks!

            Maybe OP can add this to the post?

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii
  • arathkone

    Just a US update at this stage though, hopefully something that will expand fairly soon as it seems pretty interesting.

  • HebeGuess

    Nope, I get this words definition on both desktop browser and google search and obiously I'm not in US nor using US locale.

  • Pierre Gardin

    "This feature is only active in the U.S. at the moment."

    We still got better beer *sigh*

    • Justin Dugan

      Better beer than who? The US? You crazy.

      • apmechev

        I think he means the populars (Coors, Bud, etc)

      • CrazyPaladin

        Maybe he's German

      • fs

        Sorry to say, but your beer is piss

        • Justin Dugan

          Clearly you've only had the big US macro brews. The craft beer market in the US had grown exponentially over the last 20 years and provides a range and depth now that even Europe can't compete with. In fact, the UK is currently the largest importer of American craft beers. Do yourself a favor. Buy yourself a beer from an American brewer you've never heard of. You may be surprised.

        • Justin Dugan

          Here's a nice graphic from the Brewer's Association here the US. In the late 70's there were only 89 breweries in the United States. As of June 2013, there are 2538. It's growing very quickly still.


          Now I'm thirsty.

    • Ror

      I'll happily trade you some intangible US-only google features for some beer.

  • Pierre Gardin

    "Use over time" comes from Google Books? Anyway, it's a treat.

  • NF


  • RamitSuri

    Yes US only but checking search on Google.com gets the updated card.

    • shonangreg

      I tried this from Japan, and I get the mini-card at the top of the search results in voice search, google search, and searching google from Chrome (android 4.1.2 Galaxy Note). No full etymology or the other things described above.

  • Sorian

    Okay, what is the second and third notifications?

  • kungfutigerr

    Works in Australia, not sure if today's JWR66Y update had something to do with it.

  • Vibrunazo
  • Pete Tony Pickett

    it also doesnt read the definitions anymore as it did in the television ad. is it a bug?

  • wpwIII

    I appreciate Google Search word-definition service, but I have found the service to be, well, terrible. First, the Google definitions now provide a short etymology, yes, but it does not indicate "who" wrote the etymology or rendered the definition. There can be a great difference of nuance between a definition that would appear in the OED, versus Merriam-Webster versus Random House. I find the Google definitions are extrememly basic, and thus marginally inaccurate, reducing the word-definitions to a proverbial Neanderthal grunt.

    For example, I wanted to describe a counterparty in a negotiation as 'circumspect.' Google the definition and it says "wary and unwilling to take risks." Hardly complimentary. Nor does it reflect the true meaning of the word. The definition at dictionary.reference.com (a Random House definition) is 1. watchful and discreet; cautious; and 2. well-considered. BIG difference. The Google definition is unflattering, and connotes the indecisiveness of a putz, whereas the true definition describes someone who is admirably prudent.

    It helps to know what institution wrote the definition, but it would help even more if they were accurate. Words matter.