I use spotlight extremely frequently for looking up word definitions.

Sometimes I have noticed that I don't get the word's definition back at all. For example, just now I looked up "express".

I'm hoping to see the Oxford English Dictionary definition for "express".

Instead I got these results:

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How can I make Spotlight actually just show me the dictionary definition of what I've typed?

Ideally I would also like to disable all the results that appear above the dictionary entry. I'm never interested in any of that Safari stuff. (Is it all even Safari?)

  • Not sure about how you can set the appearance order of categories but you can set the categories to appear in your Spotlight searches through System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results.
    – Alper
    Oct 16, 2022 at 21:21
  • @Alper the only categories enabled according to that are: Applications, Calculator, Conversion, Definition. I don't see how I could get rid of the Safari stuff.
    – minseong
    Oct 16, 2022 at 22:15
  • 1) The Command-space interface to Spotlight is getting worse. The first result I get for "express" is an app (which I have never used) with "express" in its name. I am expecting to see an increasing range of adverts over the next year to two. 2) For a word definition I use either "Look Up" from control-click connect menu or PopClip.
    – Gilby
    Oct 16, 2022 at 22:59
  • Have you read apple.stackexchange.com/questions/22897/…? I am not sure if the answer still works as I think Spotlight now changes the order based on your usage.
    – Gilby
    Oct 16, 2022 at 23:45

2 Answers 2


Definitions are derived in order of preferences set in Dictionary app. By default, Apple Dictionary is before Oxford dictionaries.

In order to get a Oxford English Dictionary (or any other dictionary you prefer) definition:

Go to the Dictionary app preferences (+,): in the opening window, there is "Drag reference sources into the order you prefer"; reorder dictionaries as you like and tick/untick as needed.

In Spotlight, write 'express'; then, use the keyboard shortcuts +L to open the definition from your most preferred dictionary in Spotlight window or +D to open it in the Dictionary app.

  • This is a better answer than mine!
    – Gilby
    Oct 17, 2022 at 10:51

I suggest you stop using Spotlight for this purpose. To get more control over searching change to using Alfred.

Alfred is a very configurable search tool, usually initiated with option-space.

By default (and you can change it) dictionary definitions are shown with the keyword 'define'. After option-space, just type "define express".

Alfred define

Select (up-down keys and return) "express" in show it in the Dictionary app.

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