Give Me the Finger: Quick Word Lookup in OS X

| TMO Quick Tip

The multitouch feature in your Mac's laptop or your Magic Trackpad makes it easy to perform tasks that otherwise might include several taps, clicks or swipes. For example, you can look up the definition of words in documents and on webpages with a simple gesture, no need to use Spotlight or launch the Dictionary app.

A three-finger double-tap shows a word's definition and moreA three-finger double-tap shows a word's definition and more

To check the definition of a word with a gesture, position your cursor over the word you're interested in. Now use three fingers at the same time to double-tap your trackpad. Along with the word's definition, you'll also see its thesaurus and Wikipedia entries.

This trick makes quick work of finding definitions for words you don't already know, and it's faster than typing the word in Spotlight -- which, by the way, is also a handy tip: You can type any word in the Spotlight search field to find its definition, but you'll have to click the Dictionary app in the search results.

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Greg Gehr

Very cool in Safari!

Does not seem to work in Microsoft Word 2011.  (You can still use Word’s shortcut of right-clicking and going to “look up”). 

Truly a shame that cool shortcuts like this do not work across the board in all apps.  Having to remember different shortcuts for different apps makes the shortcuts harder to remember and of less use.


Doesn’t work for me; maybe it’s not a Lion feature but a Mountain Lion feature?  I click with three fingers and wind up highlighting a whole paragraph, just as though I was using a single finger.


The feature can be turned on and off in th eTrackpad system Preferences. A double-click should not be necessary, just a three-finger tap.

Greg Gehr

Also differences between Safari and Chrome.  If you use the “three finger tap” of the text of this webpage in Safari in 10.8.4, it works, try it in Chrome on the same mac, it won’t work.  Yet if you try to do it in Google News in Chrome or Safari it works in both browsers.  Again, inconsistent implementation makes this feature worth much less to users.

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