The Ultimate Guide for Learning Spanish with a Dictionary
Before we dig into the world of dictionaries and other learning resources, let’s make one thing clear:
We are all constantly searching for ways to learn, to study, to pick up new words, and become better at our preferred language. Everyone can learn a new language, it is just a matter of time and effort. What is even better is that with changing our habits we can build up a whole new language!
Everyone has 15 minutes of “down time” in their day. Waiting for the bus, commuting, lunchtime, before going to bed – you name it!
Over a year, these daily 15 minutes add up to more than 90 hours. If that time was used to learn 10 new words a day, maybe even writing them out on flashcards, in a course of a year that would add up to 3600+ new words, which is already a basis of a language.
Use the menu below to navigate to the different sections. You can always come back to the beginning by clicking on the arrow on the bottom right side.
Table of Contents
1. Why Learn Spanish with Dictionaries?
2. Are All English-Spanish Dictionaries Equal?
3. What Digital Dictionaries Are There?
4. Our Comparison of Spanish Online Dictionaries
5. Our Comparison of Spanish Dictionary Apps
Why Learn Spanish with Dictionaries?
Despite numerous and more modern methods of learning a language, dictionaries are still highly regarded. With tools like websites, apps, podcasts, and such, one would think that the good, old dictionary has been long outdated.
Whether it’s Spanish, English, or any other language – with these proven lifesavers, unfamiliar words can be understood in just an instant.
Some time ago, the huge tomes in our closets underwent a transformation and became quickly accessible websites and sleek apps for our smartphones. Translating from English to Spanish has never been this easy! To assist you, we have scrutinized the large family of dictionaries now available so that you know how to make the best use of them while learning Spanish.
Why hardback dictionaries will always be useful
With so many options being offered to us today, you would almost think that the traditional Spanish dictionary is best suited for a museum. However they are still very widely used. You may be asking yourself: “When are people using these dictionaries?”
In the classroom, for example. Despite “Generation Smartphone,” there’s no way around the printed version, especially for exams.
When traveling to countries with another language, dictionaries are valued companions, too. The favorites normally being Spanish dictionaries that already include a few everyday phrases.
Recently, so-called slang dictionaries, such as ”Spanish for insider” or “Gibberish, Spanish slang” are becoming increasingly popular. With them, you are able to learn how a local would express himself in colloquial tongue through the use of vivid examples. Additionally, these dictionaries tell you what terms are especially common in certain situations. Admittedly, these books also contain all sorts of vulgarities and obscenities, but maybe that’s part of their charm?
Truly irreplaceable are Spanish Dictionaries in their online versions. Whether for research on the Internet, reading Spanish books, or making travel arrangements, they provide us with quick answers.
Are All English-Spanish Dictionaries Equal?
Definitely not! But before we closely examine the qualitative differences of various suppliers, let’s have a general look at the dictionary genres.
In principle, we distinguish between:
- monolingual dictionaries and
- bilingual dictionaries.
What is the difference between a monolingual and bilingual dictionary?
Monolingual dictionaries rewrite a wordand thus helps you to understand it’s meaningwithout a translation.This type of reference book is frequently allowed in exams.
A veryimportant monolingual dictionaryis the “Real Academica Española” (Royal Spanish Academy) which is widely known as the “RAE“. It offers a very comprehensive Spanish-Spanish vocabulary, that is also equipped with many sample sentences. Those who do not have the hardback edition to hand, can also use theonline version.
Multilingual dictionaries,however,translate a word in two directions– from one source language to another, and vice versa. They embody thetypical dictionary.Spanish to English or English to Spanish are examples of possible directions of translation.
These resources prove to beespecially loyal friends on holidays, but they can be a good source of help when reading texts in other languages, too.
Is there a difference between online and printed dictionaries?
Due to technological advancement in recent decades, there has been yet another type of dictionaries to choose from.
Namely, between printed and digital.
A printed reference is understood to be a traditional hard copy Spanish dictionary. Whether for English, Spanish or German, almost everyone has a copy of this type of dictionary in their bookcases at home.
What Digital Dictionaries Are There?
These dictionaries, as the name suggests, are online. Not only do they spare us from endlessly scrolling between countless sites, but they also save us a lot of bookcase space. In addition, they are also considerably lighter and more manageable. It is much easier for travelling than their printed relatives.
What type of digital dictionaries are there? On the digital side, we distinguish among the following representatives:
- a online dictionary
- a dictionary application
- an electronic dictionary
Free Spanish dictionaries online
Yes, we all know this one. And how many of us have been saved from awkward situations at least once because of it? If we are missing the vocabulary necessary to express ourselves adequately, this option provides much needed aid. One cheer for the online Spanish dictionary! The savior of forgotten vocabulary rushes to the rescue as a book, website or app.
But how do we learn Spanish online? Which Spanish-English dictionary is the best to use?
Choosing the best dictionaries out of the countless ones that are now being offered to us through the internet, is not always an easy task. And as we all know, the first search result is not always the best source.
So that you know what to trust, we have vetted different providers for you. Before delving into that however, let us briefly discuss two further digital types.
Spanish dictionary applications
Practical and easy – and above all, they are always with you! Nowadays, we barely leave the house without a smartphone or tablet. This probably makes the Spanish dictionary app the most commonly-used translator in present-day circumstances.
Especially handy are those apps which can be used offline. This means that they allow us to download all required vocabulary onto our devices, thereby allowing us to use it without connection to the web. More information about those can be found in our great dictionary comparison below.
Electronic Spanish dictionaries
Ever heard of one of these? No? If not, don’t worry! Admittedly, the electronicSpanish dictionary is not one of the most common forms of digital dictionaries in use today.
Anelectronic dictionaryis defined as ahand-sized mini computerwith software consisting only of atranslation program.So that’s basically all it does. Given the competition of apps and similar technologies these days, it is easy to see why it has no real relevance in the modern day market.
How we will help you to decide which is best
Last, but not least, we want to check out the digital services’ capability.
One last word concerning printed dictionaries though – despite thorough research, we were unable to come up with just one recommendation of which dictionary to buy. Printed dictionaries vary greatly with brand, scope and accuracy. At the same time, there are similar features such as a phonetic script which can be found in any dictionary. So, in the end, it always depends on what you expect from the dictionary – do you prefer a large or small vocabulary? Do you need the dictionary for use while traveling or do you prefer a standard version? Do you need one that’s related to your profession or one that contains slang words?
Our recommendation is that you take a close look at what the purpose of this dictionary is supposed to be. You can then conduct a search based on this, and select the one that suits you the best.
The Online Dictionary: English – SpanishOur Great Comparison
To translate English to Spanish can be quite tricky. So to help you to find the best options out there for you, we researched all the specifics on the prime services.
The relatively new translator has been a great help to many. There are 28 languages available, which is not as many as Google Translate, however, the quality of translation is far superior.
In case you want to know the translation, it will give you a few more optionsso that you can better understand the word.
You can use online translators when you need to translate a word or phrase quickly.
This is not exactly a classic dictionary. As its name suggests, it’s a translator, but since it provides us with results when entering a word in Chrome for translation, we want to briefly mention it here among the online dictionaries.
As it currently covers as many as 90 languages, it’s certainly the most extensive free “dictionary” available online for now.
With this Translator, Spanish to English translation can be just as easily done as translation involving more exotic languages such as Hindi, Zulu or Yiddish. What should be mentioned here however, is that results using this translator usually include a few more suggestions than the other online references.
For you however, this means that you should pay keen attention when using the translator and when in doubt you should confirm words using another online dictionary.
PONS offers you translations in 17 languages with an average of 1.63 million keywords per language. In addition, it provides a picture dictionaryand afree vocabulary trainerwith different levels of difficulty.
As a user, it is also possible toadd new vocabularyat PONS and introduce new words. These will be highlighted in brown until they have been confirmed by experts.
Thus, users are actively helping to improve the dictionary. Spanish – English phrases can be translated here as well, though there is still room for improvement concering the grammar.
Another notable feature is theyouth dictionaryto which you can add your own slang.
PONS – a well-stocked, online dictionary that we’ve found to bereliable and trustworthy, and also updates weekly.
In 2014, dict.cc was themost widely used online dictionary in German-speaking countries.That’s pretty impressive as in contrast to the above-mentioned online dictionaries, it isonly fed by users.This however, does not mean that it offers us less competent results.
In fact allentries are examinedby the websites specialists.
There areas many as 2,183,192 entries in 26 languages! Also provided is aforumand avocabulary trainerthat’s available for free usage.
An otherwise rarely offered bonus is thetechnical term section.Here we get information about professional/technical terms that we would otherwise find with difficulty or in appropriate specialized dictionaries.
dict.cc is one of the mostremarkable representativesamong online dictionaries. It has agreat stock of wordsand coversspecialized vocabulary.
Founded in 1999, this portal isone of the oldestrepresentatives of virtual dictionaries. With vocabulary for 17 different languages, it is also one of the most internationally used online dictionaries on the web. WordReference doesespecially well in translating Spanish.
We were also impressed by the amount ofexamples and word informationthat were supplied with each search result – that feature is really awesome! If there are any questions, you will have the opportunity to contact thebustling community.
Unique is thereading programof WordReference. It includes different features such as,various accentsincluding British English, US English and Scottish!
Thumbs up for aninnovative, user-friendlywebpage with an option to demand help.
This is another online dictionary project that wascreated by students. It was founded at theChemnitz University of Technologyand was created in1995, so it is even older than WordReference.
BEOLINGUS possesses over 184.000 words in the following translation formats of German-Spanish, German-English and German-Portuguese. In addition, there are 880,000 definitions and synonymsas well as3.919 million sample sentences.
Two of its special features are1) a converter for physical quantitiesand2) a syllable separator for German terms.
What we think: BEOLINGUS is a great dictionary that wehighly recommend!Especially as it relates to thefield of Portuguese, the dictionary does better than many collaborators.
Lingros’ slogan – “The coolest dictionary known to hombre!” – made us curious. With a little more research, we learned that the founder, Artur, created it when he was reading “Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal” (“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”). He was unhappy with the slow search results of other services and decided to do better.
The main focus of the 11-lingual dictionary is to allow persons to have fun while learning. The 8 million translations and various educational games provided help us with that. A very special idea is the “Lingo Web Viewer” – a mega cool tool, in which you simply paste the URL of any website. Then, whoosh, just like that, Lingro shows this site again, only this time, every single word is clickable. If you do click, an instant translation appears on the page. No copying or typing necessary. Brilliant!
This online dictionary is at least as charming as its founders’ reason for building it!
Spanish Dictionary Apps by Comparison
Simply unbeatable when travelling – Spanish Dictionary Apps! One brief glance at our smartphone and everybody will certainly find the right words. Even in everyday situations, they are fast and above all convenient assistance to us.
Some dictionary apps translate spoken words and even whole sentences. Their output will be a text or the audio version, which is extremely practical! You are perfectly equipped when leaving the house.
Here we took a very close look at 5 of the best apps available. Most of them work well with both Apple and Android devices.
Find out now which dictionary app suits your needs the best!
The Google Translate app, like its big brother the Google Translate, is more a translator than a dictionary. As before, we added it for sake of completeness as a lot of people are using it.
This app is able to translate 80 languages in written and spoken form. Unlike the online dictionary however, the defaulted language will be detected automatically when activating the appropriate setting. This makes it quite enjoyable and easy to translate Spanish to English.
A solid app! Particularly noteworthy is the availability of a language pack which can be downloaded to your mobile phone. This solves the problem of offline research. In addition, you have the option of simply taking a photo of your text or even just holding your phone over the words and the app will then translate it instantly for you. Pretty awesome, right?
LEO as an app has all functions of online dictionaries. Besides translations into 7 languages, it also offers us an offline vocabulary trainer as well as definitions and grammatical help for verbs.
Unfortunately a connection with the internet is required to make it work.
This free app is very nice and highly recommended.
With 51 available language pairs, the dict.cc dictionary app is one of the largest. The required language can be downloaded as a small or large vocabulary package directly on your device. Offline usage also eliminates all annoying ads.
Also, it has a great way of typing in query words: When starting dict.cc, you just select a language and then immediately type in the words. As this online dictionary is bidirectionally, it auto-selects the right translation direction.
In addition, it suggests fitting words while typing and therefore speeds up the whole process. The only drawback is that you could lack the required storage capacity on your smartphone.
Learning Spanish online and offline is fun with this simple, convenient and user friendly app.
Also widely known is the app iTranslate. With 80 offered languages, it is even competition to Google Translate!
As a user you will be supplied with suggested words while typing just like at dict.cc. However, spoken words are only understood using the paid premium version. In any case, you need an internet connection to make it work. Thus, there is no way of offline usage.
Due to its large vocabulary, this app is a hot tip for those of us who dislike Google Translate or want to avoid it. You will be in good hands!
The lesson is clear:
There are more than enough opportunities for you to learn Spanish with dictionaries. Whether traditionally by book, or more modern through the help of browsers and apps, everybody will find their match. Learning a new language is definitely worth the effort!
Languages open the gate to new worlds – and learning Spanish is easier than you think! We dare you – get a dictionary that fits your needs, and start learning today! ¡Vámonos!
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There are more than enough opportunities for you to learn Spanish with dictionaries. Whether traditionally by book, or more modern through the help of browsers and apps, everybody will find their match. Learning a new language is definitely worth the effort!What is the best Spanish dictionary? ›
Oxford Spanish Dictionary
It has been described as the most authoritative Spanish bilingual dictionary available, with all the words you'll need.
- Babbel. Best Overall App to Learn Spanish.
- Rocket Languages. Best App to Learn Spanish Grammar.
- Pimsleur. Best Spanish App with Audio Lessons.
- Mondly. Best Beginner Spanish App.
- Lingopie. Best App for Spanish Immersion Online.
- MosaLingua. Best Language and Culture App for Spanish.
- Drops. ...
- Rosetta Stone.
Even with a busy schedule and a tight budget, learning and practicing Spanish on your own is entirely possible. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to enroll in multiple classes or spend hundreds on software to thoroughly learn a new language.Will Duolingo Spanish make you fluent? ›
We see this question a lot and the answer is: yes. Duolingo is a free language-learning platform, and every language and lesson is totally free!What is the fastest way to become fluent in Spanish? ›
- Try a Student Exchange with a Spanish Family.
- Take Spanish at School or College or even a Spanish language course.
- Travel to Spain or South America.
- Live abroad (temporarily or permanently)
- Make Spanish friends in person or online.
- Listen, speak, read and write as much as you can.
If you want to find the best way to learn Spanish fast, immersion is the way to go. The most important thing that immersion provides is a constant stream of your target language. You will hear it all the time and read it everywhere.How quickly can Spanish be learned? ›
According to an FSI study, i.e. the Foreign Service Institute, it should take a new learner approximately 600 classroom hours to achieve conversational fluency in Spanish. They also suggest an approximate 1:1 ratio between the time spent independently studying Spanish and the time spent in a classroom.Which is the No 1 dictionary in the world? ›
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.What are the 10 common Spanish words? ›
- Hola (Hello)
- Adios (Goodbye)
- Gracias (Thank you)
- Por favor (Please)
- Si (Yes)
- Claro (Of course)
- No (No)
- Amor (Love)
- Slang and Regionalisms. ...
- Gendered Words. ...
- False Friends. ...
- Por y Para. ...
- Irregular Verbs. ...
- All The Tenses. ...
- The R and J and G Sounds. ...
- Understanding Natives.
There isn't one version of Spanish that is easier or harder to learn than another. While the accents and dialects vary from place to place, you can still understand most of what people are saying, regardless of which Spanish you've learnt.What is the first step to learn Spanish? ›
Read in Spanish (even as a beginner)
One of the first steps you can take to learn Spanish independently is to begin reading. Now, this doesn't mean you need to pick up an untranslated version of Don Quixote and try to make sense of it. Instead, the best thing to do is start with short, simple dialogues and stories.
- Duolingo. Duolingo. ...
- Babbel. Babbel GmbH. ...
- Pimsleur. Simon & Schuster. ...
- LingoPie. LingoPie. ...
- Busuu. Busuu. ...
- Memrise. Memrise. ...
- FluentU. Enux Education Limited. ...
- Brain Pop: Película del Día. BrainPOP.
If you think about native-level fluency, you'll need to master between 20,000 and 40,000 words, and as you can see the margin is quite large. If you want to have a basic conversation, experts say that you'll just need around 3,000 words.Which is better Babbel or Duolingo? ›
Is Babbel better than Duolingo? After thoroughly testing out and reviewing each language learning program, we feel that Babbel is better than Duolingo for multiple reasons. Based on the strength of their curriculum, teaching style and delivery, we rate Babbel as the superior app over Duolingo.Can Duolingo get you to B1? ›
By reaching the end of Unit 5, Duolingo learners have completed all the lessons in the beginner sections of our courses, called A1 and A2, and are starting intermediate B1 material.Can Duolingo get you to B2? ›
At Duolingo, we're developing our courses to get you to a level called B2, at which you can get a job in the language you're studying. Reaching that kind of proficiency requires dedication, varied practice opportunities, and a lot of time.How long should I study Spanish a day to become fluent? ›
Based on US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) research, if you start out as a beginner and spend an average of one hour per day working actively on Spanish—such as with a teacher or conversation partner, as well as doing homework—then it can take 480 hours to reach conversational fluency.How long should it take to become fluent in Spanish? ›
Summary: According to FSI, if you spend 3 hours per day learning Spanish, you'll achieve fluency in around six months. Reduce your Spanish time to one hour a day and, according to FSI, it will take about 1.5 years to learn. As you can see, Spanish is one of the most accessible languages for English speakers.
Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.What are the 10 tips for learning Spanish? ›
- Don't expect to be perfect! Can you remember when learned to ride a bicycle? ...
- Work on developing an “ear” for Spanish. Remember that language is first and foremost oral communication. ...
- Practice SPEAKING! ...
- Be consistent. ...
- Talk to yourself. ...
- Use flashcards. ...
- Label your surroundings. ...
- Be patient.
- Download an app on your phone. ...
- Subscribe to a Spanish-language podcast. ...
- Watch the news in Spanish. ...
- Start a conversation club. ...
- Carry a Spanish-English dictionary with you… ...
- Sign up for a language class. ...
- Spend time in a Spanish-speaking country.
- Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
- Dutch. ...
- Norwegian. ...
- Spanish. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Italian. ...
- French. ...
Your deadline will depend on how much time you can put aside to study each day. If you're starting from scratch, you could reach this level of fluency in 1 year by studying for 2 – 3 hours per day. If you're already at an intermediate level, you could get there in about 6 months.What language has most words? ›
The language with the largest vocabulary in the world is English with 1,025,109.8 words.What dictionary does America use? ›
Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's most-trusted online dictionary.What is the most known Spanish word? ›
|Rank||Word in Spanish||Meaning in English|
It is possible to learn Spanish in 3 months, but it is true that to fully master the language to a native level, you will need more time. An intensive Spanish course covering all levels (from A1 to C2) consists of 62 weeks (about 15 months in total).
According to a Mexican friend of mine, murciélago (bat) is the only Spanish word with all five vowels.Can I become fluent in Spanish in 6 months? ›
If you can manage to combine being surrounded by native Spanish speakers and by the Spanish language itself, you will be able to become fluent in 6 months (given that you will put efforts into study).What is the fastest way to improve language skills? ›
- Watch movies in English. ...
- Immerse yourself in English language news. ...
- Start a vocabulary book of useful words. ...
- Have conversations in English. ...
- Practice, practice, practice. ...
- Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat. ...
- Don't forget to have fun while you learn.
- Online courses, software, and apps.
- Language exchange/tandem learning with a native speaker.
- Media resources like podcasts, TV shows and movies.
- Library books and public resources.
- Immersion learning.
Grammatically speaking, French is more or less has the same difficulty level as Spanish and other romance languages. It is not a universal myth that French is more complicated than Spanish. Like any other language, One needs to devote lots of time to practice listening, reading, and of course, speaking.Is Spanish harder or English? ›
Spanish has 25 phonemes; it's generally agreed that English has 44 phonemes. (Phonemes are speech sounds.) So it's generally harder for a Spanish speaker to pronounce English well. It means learning entirely new sounds.What's the hardest language list? ›
- Mandarin. Right at the top is the most spoken language in the world: Mandarin. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Japanese. ...
- Hungarian. ...
- Korean. ...
- Finnish. ...
- Basque. ...
Two countries which are recognized for a clearly spoken, standardized accent are Colombia and Costa Rica; while there are indigenous languages spoken by some citizens, the primary language is Spanish.What is the fastest Spanish accent? ›
Chilean Spanish is so fast and distinctive that even native Spanish speakers have trouble understanding it. (Yikes!) Chileans are speed demons when it comes to speaking, so fair warning. These top speeds may be tricky at first, but we're going to break down the accent so you get a better sense of it.What is the coolest Spanish accent? ›
In general discussion, 'best' usually means an accent that is clearly spoken, with proper annunciation, and easily understood across the Spanish-speaking world. Some people claim that for these reasons, Colombia has the best Spanish accent. Others say that Peru and Ecuador have the best Spanish accent.
Indeed, learning a language word by word, does not prepare you for the practical side of it. Even though understanding words in context works better in order to remember the parts of a language, dictionaries provide the grammatical details of the new word.Is a dictionary a good way to learn a language? ›
A dictionary is a useful, but not an all-important tool in your language-learning arsenal. Why? Simply because a language dictionary does not give you context that will help you better understand a language and gain fluency. It's much better to understand the context instead of just looking up the definition.Is dictionary useful for learning a language? ›
A dictionary is one of the most important tools during your time studying at a university. A good dictionary can help you understand your subject better, improve your communication and improve your grades by making sure you are using words correctly.Can you take a dictionary into an exam? ›
Dictionaries to be used in exams must only translate. They must not have encyclopaedic information, i.e. explanatory information beyond the translation of the source word and the minimal etymological information commonly provided. Dictionaries must be in paper form; electronic dictionaries are not permitted.Which dictionary is most accepted? ›
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely accepted as the most complete record of the English language ever assembled. Unlike typical language dictionaries, which only define words in terms of their current uses and meanings, the OED is a historical dictionary.Which dictionary is easiest to understand? ›
The Cambridge Dictionary includes definitions, example sentences, and collocations for each word to help you understand in which context it is better to use vocabulary.Can a person memorize the whole dictionary? ›
Yes. Many mnemonist have done this. I know of 3 people that have memorized an entire dictionary.Which dictionary is best for translation? ›
Collins dictionary is one of the best platforms for learners, translators, and teachers. Boasting over 4.5 billion words, Collins is an embodiment of top-tier features. It comes with unique options that can help you improve your grammar and fluency.What is the best way to use dictionary? ›
Step-by-step guide to using a dictionary
STEP 1 - Find the word you want to look up. STEP 2 - Find the letter that the word begins with. STEP 3 - Open the dictionary to the page with the relevant letter, in this case the letter C. STEP 4 - Now look at the second letter in the word you are looking for.
- Words have multiple definitions. ...
- Definitions are full of tricky words. ...
- Definitions often include the word you are looking up! ...
- Dictionaries take too much time. ...
- Technology is making dictionaries obsolete.
- Look it up! The first step to looking something up in the dictionary is, naturally, to type the word in the search bar. ...
- Headwords & Pronunciations. The headword is the word you looked up, written in bold letters. ...
- Definitions. ...
- Usage Labels. ...
- Illustrations of Use. ...
- First Known Use. ...
It can be difficult to remember words directly out of a dictionary, so try putting new words into everyday context by using them in your speech. Learning new words by reading and looking up what you don't know can also be a great way to expand your vocabulary.Whats the word for cheating in an exam? ›
Academic misconduct (cheating) in exams.What dictionary do judges use? ›
Ballentine's Law Dictionary available in print and on LexisNexis . This dictionary contains over 40,000 definitions of legal terms “based on the actual construction of those terms by courts of last resort, with each case cited to the page on which the definition appears.”What is it called when you cheat on an exam? ›
The Different Names For Cheating
Cheating in college can be called a variety of names. They include: unauthorized assistance, honor code violation, unauthorized collaborating, and more. Just as there are many names for cheating, there are also many ways students try to get away with it.