In Summary

Apple offers the Look Up feature in macOS to simplify looking up definitions of words/phrases on Mac. Although there are a few different ways in which you can use Look Up on Mac, nothing’s more efficient and convenient than using a trackpad gesture. Fortunately, Apple offers a couple of gestures for Look Up that make this possible. We’ll show you how to set them up and use them to look up words on Mac.

Among these, the keyboard shortcut method, which requires you to select the word and press the Command + Control + D keys, is the most common. However, it isn’t very intuitive, and the keyboard shortcut can sometimes interfere with certain apps that use the same shortcut for any of their actions. An alternative way is to invoke the Look Up functionality using a trackpad gesture. We’ll show you how to configure this below so you can look up words on Mac quickly and efficiently.

How to Configure Look Up to Use Trackpad Gesture

First, you need to enable Look Up on your Mac. It’s available as part of the Look Up and Data Detectors feature in macOS, and you can turn it on using these steps:

Launch System Settings (on macOS Ventura) or System Preferences (on older macOS versions) on your Mac. Select Trackpad to access Trackpad settings. Toggle on the switch for Force Click and Haptic Feedback.

Hit the dropdown button beside Look Up & Data Detectors and select Force Click with One Finger (if your Mac supports force touch. Else, choose Tap with Three Fingers from the menu.

How to Look Up a Word on Mac Using Mac Trackpad Gestures

Once you’ve set up Look Up to use the trackpad gesture, you can now use the gesture you designated Look Up to use to find the definition of any word or phrase on your Mac. When you stumble across a word/phrase, do either of these:

Tap with three fingers on the word: If you’ve set the Look Up gesture to use the Tap with Three Fingers gesture Force click the word, i.e., click and click-and-hold the word: If you’ve set the Look Up gesture to use the Force Click with One Finger gesture

Look Up will now show you a card with a bunch of information about the word or phrase you just queried. On this card, you’ll see tabs at the bottom that read Dictionary, Wikipedia, App Store, etc. Click on any of these to find the relevant results.

On the other hand, if you just want to view the meaning of a word or phrase, you can do so from the Dictionary tab. Here, you’ll see a bunch of definitions from different sources. If you want to learn more, click the Open in Dictionary button at the bottom of the page. This will open a new window where you can find all the definitions of the word, including other information, such as adjectives, origin, derivatives, and usage, across different sources.

Dictionary sources are configurable on macOS. To view/remove them, click the Configure Dictionaries button at the bottom of the page. On the Settings window, check off the checkbox next to the source you want to add and uncheck it for the ones you want to remove.

Once done, you can also drag the sources in the list to change the order in which they appear in the Look Up result card.

Look Up Words on Mac: No More Old-Fashioned Word Searches

Apple offers several gestures in macOS to help you perform different operations on your Mac quickly and easily. Force Click with One Finger and Tap with Three Fingers are two such gestures that you can assign to the Look Up functionality to easily look up a word or phrase from anywhere on your Mac, as we’ve discussed above. And the best part is both of them work on MacBook and Magic Trackpad, which means you can use these gestures on almost any Mac. So, the next time you stumble upon a word or phrase that you’d like to know more about, perform either of the trackpad gestures on it to look it up.

Further Read:

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