Google's Define Operator Changes

May 17, 2011 • 8:47 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google Define Operator

A Google Web Search Help thread has Googler Kelly F. finally replying to dozens of complaints on changes to how the define operator on Google works.

Back in April we reported on a define operator bug but apparently, it was Google making changes to how the operator works.

The thing is, I really do not see what has changed recently. Maybe I am missing the obvious, but all the define commands work as they did for me months ago. Plus the results seem to have no changed for me. The image above matches the format from what I screen captured in July 2010.

Kelly from Google did say they refined it but again, I don't see how any of this is new. Kelly said:

As you've noticed, we recently refined our dictionary search features, which include the define: operator among other tools. We now offer you a couple of ways to look up the definition of a word. Here are some examples:

- [define:miraculous]
- [what does miraculous mean]
- [definition of miraculous]

Each of these queries will bring up the word's definition within the results. There's no need to go to a different page! If you want a more comprehensive definition of a word, select the "More" link at the end of the definition and you'll find additional information related to your query including synonyms, pronunciation, usage examples, web definition, and more.

Update: I am told that when you used the define:word command, it would take you directly to the Google Dictionary, i.e. the "more" link and not the search results page. People really prefer that when they type define:word they are taken to the dictionary page and not search results.

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.

Previous story: Bing Makes Facebook Data To Use, Personalized Bing Results By Facebook


Barry Hunter

05/17/2011 01:09 pm

 It used to be that "define: word" would show the 'Web definition' right there - instead of search results.,r:6,s:0&tx=64&ty=93 ... now it just includes a the dictionary defintion, with a more.  Your screenshot from July 2010  - does NOT include the 'define:' operator.  So now 'define:' just garentees to show the dictionary definition before the results, with 'web definitions' hidden behind the "more"link.  Previouslly (since July 2010 apprently) google has been showing the dictionary when it has a high confidence its a definition you after. 

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2011 01:15 pm

so it took you right to the definitions page, got you.

Michael Martinez

05/17/2011 04:05 pm

 This is an absolutely horrible "improvement".  Why on Earth would anyone want to see that irrelevant crap when they are looking for the dictionary page?  I want the old Define: behavior.


05/17/2011 04:55 pm

Seriously, if I wanted web results why on earth would I bother typing the define: operator in the first place? Wtf?


05/18/2011 01:07 am

The new format also seems a lot more crowded and the web definitions seem tacked on - without the luxury of width and distinguishing bullet points, a lot of the web definitions (which tend to be somewhat long-winded) become suddenly really unappealing to refer to, even though I enjoyed reading them before.

SEO Services

05/18/2011 12:10 pm

It should be. People are spending most of the time on internet and many of them want to find the perfect solution, in this case they want the perfect definition for the term they are searching for. Thanks for updating about this changes.


05/18/2011 01:16 pm

agree for sure ... was much better before. Why the heck this change ? 

Mark Piontek

05/18/2011 08:08 pm

yeah. wth.

Gula Kapas

05/25/2011 09:53 am

Currently, to get a definition: Step 1: Run browser. Step 2: Go to Step3: Search term "define:miraculous" Step 4: Go to to look-up definition. Might as well be this: Step 1 --> Step 4 -- Step 3. Less steps. Less irritation from Google.


05/25/2011 12:27 pm

I created a "petition". Please go and reply "YES PLEASE" to the "Google Web Search Help thread" (as linked by Barry in this post).


06/01/2011 08:44 pm

Such a devolution. I used the define command so much. It's one of the worst things Google has ever done to the users!


06/07/2011 04:55 pm

Add a new bookmark to your browser - call it "Define" Edit the URL of the link. Enter the following (all on one line): javascript:__do=function(){var def=prompt('Define?','Define?','');document.location.href='' + def+'&tbs=dfn:1'};__do(); Next click the link, fill in your word and click OK You will be directed to the Google definition page: this&tbs=dfn:1


07/22/2011 03:25 pm

Sorry, you are missing the point.  The 'old' define was very helpful for students.  If for example you entered define:muslim you would get several (dozens) of hits showing an assortment of web sites, one sentence, so you could look down the list and make your own conclusion.  Now it's more or less a dictionary definition, not good.  Ho Hum.  The 'old' define was cool because it stripped out media influence, politics, etc.  You cannot define:muslim, catholic any longer without getting a slant on the results one way or another.

Merwyn Monteiro

10/29/2011 11:40 pm

It used to display numerous definitions from a wide variety of sources. It no longer does that and only returns one definition and the rest are url links to wikipedia pages etc... does not work the same!!

blog comments powered by Disqus