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I'm familiar with the IPA characters, but google shows other symbols in its search results. What I want to find is an equivalence table or something to get the IPA characters of any particular word than I'm interested in. Or a tool that brings words as quicky as typing "define book" in my browser's address bar, which is how one can get the Google's result for any world.

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Google is using some version of the American pronunciation symbols, which are used with some variations in most American dictionaries. Here is Merriam-Webster's pronunciation guide. Note also that Google only shows the American pronunciation (at least, to me). If you Googled in the U.K., I wouldn't be surprised if it showed you the British pronunciation with IPA characters. – Peter Shor Oct 26 '13 at 20:07
Macmillan has both American and British dictionaries with IPA. You can create a search shortcut for it that takes less typing than "define whatever". In Mozilla and friends, you can do this by adding a bookmark like http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/american/%s and giving it a keyword like m, which lets you type m snail in your address bar to get Macmillan's page for snail, which says helpfully says /sneɪl/. – snailplane Oct 26 '13 at 20:20
@snailboat cool! I'll try to do something similar with safari. – rraallvv Oct 26 '13 at 20:24
Merriam Webster's pronunciation guide (a) uses 45 symbols to represent American English's 38 phonemes (there's one extra vowel phoneme in RP), (b) is completely non-standard, and (c) is unknown to and unused by anyone who doesn't work for Merriam-Webster. – John Lawler Oct 26 '13 at 22:06
Yes, but they're impossible to type and very difficult to read, make no sense, and are used by MW only because they believe (I'm afraid correctly) that Americans are too stupid and/or ignorant to learn a reasonable standard. With the result that nobody learns anything. – John Lawler Oct 26 '13 at 23:38
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I did some investigation and I have determined that the dictionary entries returned by the Google define: operator are from the New Oxford American Dictionary, including the pronunciation symbols. The OxfordDictionaries.com site has a complete key to these pronunciations.

To determine this, I started the Wikipedia article that compares many of these "pronunciation respelling" systems, and looked up the various example words to see which system on that page most closely matched the system used by the Google dictionary search results. The only scheme that matched perfectly is the one labeled NOAD, for New Oxford American Dictionary.

Furthermore, once I made this determination, I was reminded that the Dictionary app which comes with Mac OS X also gets its data from the New Oxford American Dictionary, and I found that this was indeed the case—the definition content matches exactly.

However, the Wikipedia article on Google Dictionary reports that the content is from Oxford American College Dictionary. In any case, it appears that the content, including pronunciations, comes from the American English department of Oxford Dictionaries.

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