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Graphic Dictionary


Graphic or pictorial dictionaries display pictures and/or symbols of words and objects along with the written definition. Graphic or pictorial dictionaries best communicate concrete objects but have a difficulty explaining more abstract concepts such as “democracy”. These types of dictionaries are great tools for research inside the classroom and outside of the classroom for standardized testing preparation. Learning through a graphic dictionary assists in second and foreign language acquisition (Constantinescu, 2007). Symbol dictionaries are another form of graphic dictionaries that show an icon associated with each word; such as logos or WHMIS symbols. Lower frequency words may display multiple symbols to portray the concept. Research about using technology to teach vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension has shown positive results. Text and picture pairing has been previously found to allow students to learn new vocabulary words efficiently because it provides two components to pair with the new information (Constantinescu, 2007). Additionally, the use of text, photo, and video is the best method of fast and simple vocabulary acquisition (Constantinescu, 2007). There does not appear to be any research focusing on students with disabilities using graphic dictionaries as assistive technology.

Research Rating: Due to limited peer-reviewed research the claims made about graphic dictionaries should be interpreted with caution.


  • User-friendly, easily accessed, low-cost

  • Colourful and themed visuals help to make learning interactive


  • Unable to visually communicate abstract concepts. Therefore, word count may be limited.

  • Visuals may be limited to North American standards

To Consider

  • Graphic dictionaries have been shown to be very effective for specific purposes. It will be important to consider when they are most appropriate to use in the classroom.

Special Consideration: Workflow

OS Compatibility
Internet Reliance
Optimized Use

Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed. 

$ - Under $5

$$ - Between $6 and $50

$$$ - Between $51 and $250

$$$$ - Over $250



Constantinescu, A.I. (2007). Using technology to assist in vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension. The Internet TESL Journal, 13(3). Retrieved from



Written by Tresa Jules, Last Revision April 2018

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