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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Restore missing definitions to Look Up

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

If you’re looking for the “Define” feature in iOS 10, you might have to recalibrate your expectations a bit; the feature, which appears in the popover menu when you select a word, is now called “Look Up.” And it might take a little tweaking before it shows exactly what you want it to.


My former colleague Dan Frakes sent me a message last night saying that when he summoned Look Up, it didn’t show word definitions–just search results from around the web. I checked it out on my own phone and found the same thing, but I had a suspicion as to where the problem might have arisen.

iOS pulls dictionary definitions not from the web, but from its own onboard dictionaries. I suspected that perhaps when either the jump to iOS 10 or to a new phone had been made, the dictionaries hadn’t been downloaded–in my case I had restored from an iCloud Backup, which probably didn’t contain the dictionary file. A friend who had restored from an iTunes Backup said he did still have it. In any case, a trip to Settings > General > Dictionary confirmed as much–no dictionaries were selected.

Tapping the British English and American English entries started downloads of the respective dictionaries. Once they were loaded on the device, definitions were once again restored to the Look Up feature.

I still wish Apple would add a dictionary app, or at least definition support to Spotlight, but for now, I’m glad to at least have my Look Up feature working again.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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