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Google Home: 5 ways your smart speaker is a wiz with words

Google home can translate on the fly, look up definitions and even help you win at Scrabble.

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Google Home can help you out in a pinch if you're stuck on a crossword clue.

Dale Smith/CNET

Google Home ($99 at Target) understands thousands of voice commands, but did you know it can help you win at Scrabble? Or if you've ever been stuck on a crossword clue, Google Home might be able to get you unstumped. And even though it's kind of a no-brainer, Google Home can teach you how to spell just about any word in the lexicon -- even big ones, like antidisestablishmentarianism.

But what if you don't even know how to pronounce the third-longest word in the English language, let alone what it means? Google Home can help you with all of that, too. Google Home is positively stacked with all sorts of language skills that can help you spell or pronounce words, find definitions, synonyms and antonyms as well as translate to and from other languages.

And if you ask the right questions, Google Home can also sometimes help you solve word puzzles. Here are five fun ways Google Home can help you explore words and language -- and maybe even improve your Scrabble game.

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Ask Google Home to spell even the most complicated words -- like antidisestablishmentarianism -- and it will. Bonus if you have a Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max, which will display the word while reading out its letters.

Dale Smith/CNET

1. Google Home can spell it out for you

It's a Catch-22 practically as old as language itself: if you can't spell a word, you have to look it up -- but how do you look it up if you can't spell it? Thanks to the wonders of speech recognition, Google Home can break you free from this linguistic paradox.

From the simple ("Hey, Google, how do you spell 'weird?'") to the sublime ("transubstantiation," "seraphim," "Santeria,") Google Home can spell just about any word you throw at it if you just ask.

2. Google Home can sound it out for you, too

Google Home is just as good at solving the opposite problem -- when you've encountered a word and have no clue how to say it -- but you have to be very precise in how you ask. The key to prompting Google Home for the correct pronunciation of a word is to say, "OK, Google, how do you pronounce..." followed by a slow but steady spelling of the word ("C-A-T," "D-O-G," A-N-T-I-D-I-S-E-S-T-A-B-L-I-S-H-M-E-N-T-A-R-I-A-N-I-S-M").

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Stuck on a word you don't know how to pronounce? Spell it out for Google Home to learn.

Angela Lang/CNET

The key here is you have to ask Google Home to "pronounce" the word. If you just ask, "How do you say [word]?" you may or may not get the response you're looking for.

3. Google Home: Dictionary and Thesaurus

You have a little more leeway in how you ask Google Home for the definitions of words. You can say, "Hey, Google, what's the definition of 'cat?'" Or, "What does antidisestablishmentarianism mean?" You can even bluntly ask, "OK, Google, what's a pawn?"

Same goes for thesaurus entries. For synonyms, you can ask, "What's another word for 'squeeze?'" or, "What's another way to say 'love?'" For words with opposite meanings, just say, "What's the opposite of 'squeeze?'" or "What words mean the opposite of 'love?'" or, "What are some antonyms for 'antidisestablishmentariansm?'"

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Google Home has a translation mode for lengthier communication, but you can translate words and sentences on the fly just by asking.

Josh Miller/CNET

4. Translate on the fly with Google Home

Google Home's interpreter mode is great for conducting conversations across language barriers, but sometimes you might only need to know what a word or two means in your native language, or how to say a native word or two in a foreign language. If you don't know what language an unfamiliar word is from, Google Home might be able to figure it out. Just say "Hey, Google" and ask a question like any of these:

  • "How do you say, 'thank you' in Spanish?" (Answer: "Gracias.")
  • "What does 'domo arigato' mean?" (Answer: It means "thank you" in Japanese.)
  • "How do you say, 'Where is the coffeeshop?' in French?" (Answer: "Où est le café?")

5. Google Home can help with word games

Google Home has a dedicated Scrabble dictionary made by a third-party developer, but in our tests it incorrectly identified several words as invalid Scrabble moves ("homogeneous," "misanthropic," "hereditary"  -- 16, 21 and 17 points respectively, according to the official Hasbro Scrabble online dictionary).

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Whenever there's disagreement among Scrabble players over the validity of a word, Google Home can verify whether it is or not.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Instead, you're better off just bluntly asking Google Home if the combination of letters you want to use is actually a word. For example, when asked "Is A-P a word?" Google Home responded, "No, 'ap' is not in the Scrabble dictionary." When asked, "Is A-P-P a word?" Google Home replied, "Here's the definition of app: An application, especially as downloaded by a user to a mobile device," confirming that it is, in fact, a word.

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Google Home can also help with daunting crossword puzzle clues if you give it the clue plus how many letters you have to fill. For example, say, "OK, Google, what's a four letter word meaning 'cut'" and Google Home will generate a list, including "gash" and "snip." Unfortunately, you can't give it the letters you've already filled in, for example, if it starts with a "G."

Google Home isn't just a master of language -- it's math skills are bar none as well. Of course, most people listen to music more than anything else they do with their Google Home speakers, so be sure to set up your streaming services for the best listening experience. Speaking of settings, here are five you won't regret changing.