A feature in Chrome seems to be rolling out that allows you to tap words on a page and easily see definitions and other knowledge graph details right at the bottom of your screen. The feature doesn't seem to have widely rolled out yet, and it may have been in testing for a while, but it appears to supplement Chrome's previous "tap/touch to search" functionality, which allows you to select words to perform a simple search in a pull-out tab.

The new feature works for both dictionary definitions, names, foods, chemical elements, and probably many more categories of items, showing a small icon of either a related image or a book (in the case of word definitions) together with a short description which describes the thing. In the case of dictionary results, it also includes a pronunciation guide. If you tap a phrase or name that has multiple words to it, Chrome seems able to figure out the full term pretty easily.

Also note that if you long-press rather than tap, you get the prior, more basic tap to search feature instead.

A gallery of different results. 

Like the existing (but slightly different) tap/touch to search functionality, pulling up on the bar gives you a tab from Google's search results, taking you directly to the relevant details in Google's knowledge graph. Unlike the previous implementation, though, this page seems to be pre-loaded before you even pull it up. The old version of tap to search lacks both the extra icon/definition in it's collapsed state, and further requires that the search separately load when triggered.

Tapping a word brings up the information (after a short delay). Pulling up that bar takes you to the knowledge graph results. 

We can't tell how widely this new feature has rolled out yet. Again, it's very similar to tap to search's long-standing functionality, but different in that it displays results from the knowledge graph in a collapsed state. Several of us at Android Police have it on the latest stable version of Chrome (v83.0.4103.106), but our tipster reports seeing it on an un-updated instance of the Brave browser.

In post-publication testing, we've been able to verify that the feature is controlled by a "Contextual Search definitions" flag (located at chrome://flags/#contextual-search-definitions), and it's possible some recent server-side change is enabling the feature on more phones. We've successfully enabled it on devices that didn't previously have it by enabling that flag. Disabling the "Touch to Search" setting in Chrome also turns it off.

The difference between a long-press (which is still the old tap to search) and short-press.

The flag may have been around for a while, though. Another tipster sent us similar details late last year (though it seemed to work for fewer terms at the time). This could be a slow rollout, or Google may have held the feature back for some reason. (Or we all just assumed it was old.) But this seemingly recent and subtle change in behavior appears new in our testing. In the meantime, you can check to see if you have it with a single literal tap, and enabling it is easy if you don't.

  • Thanks:
  • Zack Webb