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Dictionaries by Jennifer Bates, Rita Johnston, Hannah Noll, Regina De Guerra, and Gillian Speace. What is a Dictionary?. OED Definition:

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Dictionaries by jennifer bates rita johnston hannah noll regina de guerra and gillian speace

Dictionariesby Jennifer Bates, Rita Johnston, Hannah Noll, Regina De Guerra, and Gillian Speace

What is a dictionary
What is a Dictionary?

OED Definition:

  • a. A book dealing with the individual words of a language (or certain specified classes of them), so as to set forth their orthography, pronunciation, signification, and use, their synonyms, derivation, and history, or at least some of these facts: for convenience of reference, the words are arranged in some stated order, now, in most languages, alphabetical; and in larger dictionaries the information given is illustrated by quotations from literature; a word-book, vocabulary, or lexicon. Full link

What is a dictionary1
What is a Dictionary?

From Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged


Organization of a dictionary
Organization of a Dictionary

  • Alphabetically

  • By root origin (In Arabic, some Sanskrit)

  • Pronunciation, shape, letter stroke (In ideographic writing systems)

Some types of dictionaries
Some Types of Dictionaries

  • Unabridged

  • Abridged

  • Pocket

  • Multiple Language

  • Specialized or Technical Dictionaries

  • Online Dictionaries

  • Gaming Dictionaries

  • Colloquial and Slang Dictionaries

  • Childrens’ Dictionaries

  • Visual Dictionaries

  • Glossaries

  • Thesaurus

Evaluation criteria
Evaluation Criteria

  • Format

    - CD-Rom, Online, or Book?

  • Scope

  • Relation to Similar Works

  • Authority

    - Reputable publisher? Good reviews?

  • Treatment

    - Are definitions precise and accurate? Any bias?

  • Currency of Definitions

  • Arrangement

  • Special Features

    - Synonyms/Antonyms

    - Etymology

The oed what makes it unique
The OED:What Makes it Unique

  • It was the first successful attempt to compile a comprehensive dictionary of English words

  • James Murray, the editor, advertised to the public to help collect the earliest and best quotations for EACH WORD in use in English. The project began in 1857 and was not completed until 1928.

  • First edition named New English Dictionary on Historical Principles

  • An unabridged dictionary, but also more:

    - Has etymology of each word

    - Some people use it as a quotation dictionary b/c of its quotes

Later editions
Later Editions

  • As soon as the first OED was completed, the compilers began updating it.

  • 1992 – first CD-Rom version

  • Second Edition –completed 1989

  • Third Edition – is being completely revised for the first time. It will not be completed before 2018, and it may be only in online form, depending on demand, according to Oxford.


  • Current editions are in print and online, but online updated more frequently.

  • Scope: All English words in current use in the general population.

  • Similar to other unabridged dictionaries, but with superior etymology and quotations. In a class by itself.

  • Authority: The first and the BEST! Published by Oxford.

  • Treatment: Heavy on determining meaning through use

  • Technological definitions not current: computer

  • Arrangement: Alphabetical (print), searchable (online)

Webster s third new international dictionary of the english language what makes it unique
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language:What Makes It Unique?

  • Considered the most prestigious unabridged dictionary published in N. America.

  • Considered “too permissive” by its critics when first published – more descriptive than prescriptive.

  • Has an online counterpart.

  • Entries in easily readable style.

Evaluation English Language:

  • Print and online version. Web version contains 1996 update not in print version.

  • Scope: All English words in current use in the general population.

  • Similar to other unabridged dictionaries,

  • Authority: Widely considered the best in its class. Respected publisher.

  • Treatment: easily readable, concise definitions for an unabridged. More accepting of ‘improper’ English, descriptive not prescriptive.

  • Technological definitions not current: computer

  • Arrangement: Alphabetical (print), searchable (online)

A few points about unabridged dictionaries
A Few Points about Unabridged Dictionaries English Language:

  • They take a long time to compile, so are not updated often, so are not kept up to date.

  • Computers and the web are making it easier for unabridged dicts. to stay current.

  • However, as my example indicated, they are still way behind with many definitions.

Online dictionaries

The Good,

the Bad,

and the


Subject specific dictionaries

Subject-Specific English Language:Dictionaries

Medical dictionaries
Medical Dictionaries English Language:

corpus English Language:, gen. corporis [TA], pl. corpora ( ) The plural of this word is corpora, not corpi. 1. SYN: body (1). 2. Any body or mass. 3. The main part of an organ or other anatomic structure, as distinguished from the head or tail. SEE ALSO: body, diaphysis, soma. [L. body]corpus adiposum [TA]. SYN: fat-pad.corpus adiposum buccae [TA]. SYN: buccal fat-pad.

Law dictionaries
Law Dictionaries English Language:

Acronyms abbreviations etc
Acronyms, Abbreviations, etc. English Language:


Corps of Reserve Priests United for Service

Word games
Word Games English Language:

Visual dictionaries

Visual Dictionaries English Language:

  • Thematically organized, not alphabetical English Language:

  • No definitions given

  • An alphabetical index is included

    Bragonier, Reginald.What’s What: A Visual Glossary of the Physical World. Maplewood, N.J. : Hammond, c1981.

  • A dual language example English Language:

  • Facts on File makes versions in several languages

  • Has thematic as well as alphabetical indices

    Corbeil, Jean Claude. The Facts on File English/Spanish visual dictionary : look up the word from the picture, find the picture from the word. New York : Facts on File, c1992.

  • Another format English Language:

  • The New Oxford Picture Dictionary comes in several languages and just English

  • “For all ages”

    Parnwell, E. C. The new Oxford picture dictionary,English/ Navajo ed. New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.

Online visual dictionaries
Online Visual Dictionaries English Language:

  • http://www.infovisual.info/

    • Format – hard to search, easy to browse

    • Scope – only biology, anatomy, music, transport

    • Authority – Bernard Déry (?)

    • Features – gives short written descriptions, too

  • http://www.allaboutspace.com/science/dictionary/

    • Format – cannot search, only browse

    • Scope – 17 science categories

    • Authority – by Enchanted Learning (teacher resource)

    • Features – long descriptions, labeled diagrams, links

Children s dictionaries

Children’s Dictionaries English Language:

  • For young children English Language:

  • No definitions, but some examples

  • To be read as well as used for reference

    Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat Beginner Book Dictionary.

  • For “early elementary” English Language:

  • Simple definitions with example sentences

  • Easy to understand pronunciation guide

    Levey, Judith S. Scholastic first dictionary. New York : Scholastic Reference, c1998.

  • For “8 to 11 year olds” English Language:

  • More advanced pronunciation key, parts of speech

  • More advanced words, and more meanings of each word

    Webster's new world children's dictionary. Cleveland : Webster's New World, c1991.

  • For “5 English Language:th through 8th graders”

  • Even more words, and more meanings

  • Includes more features, such as slang terms, phrases, and geographical terms

    Webster's new world dictionary for young adults.New York : Prentice Hall, c1992.

Online children s dictionaries
Online Children’s Dictionaries English Language:

  • http://www.wordcentral.com/

    • Format – poorly designed interface

    • Audience – about middle school level ?

    • Authority – Merriam-Webster’s Student Dictionary

    • Features – pronunciation guide at the bottom of the page

  • http://www.factmonster.com/

    • Format – better interface and display

    • Audience – about middle school level ?

    • Authority – Random House Unabridged Dictionary

    • Features – links to encyclopedia entry from The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia

Language dictionaries

Language Dictionaries English Language:

  • The Oxford Spanish Dictionary English Language:

  • Broad coverage, many meanings and phrases

  • Complex entry structure can be confusing

    The Oxford Spanish dictionary : Spanish-English/English-Spanish. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1994.

  • Often include extra sections English Language:

  • Verb charts

  • Letter samples, usage guides, country information

    Collins diccionario inglés = Collins Spanish dictionary. 6th ed. Barcelona : Grijalbo ; New York : Collins, c2000.

  • A slang dictionary English Language:

  • Beware this is specific to Spain

    Carbonell Basset, Delfín.An English and Spanish dictionary of slang and unconventional language = Diccionario castellano e inglés de argot y lenguaje informal.1. ed. Barcelona : Ediciones del Serbal, 1997.

  • A phrase dictionary English Language:

  • Again, particular to Spain

    Carbonell Basset, Delfín.Diccionario fraseológico : inglés-castellano, castellano-inglés : frases, expresiones, modismos, dichos, locuciones, idiotismos, refranes, etc. = A phraseological dictionary : English-Spanish, Spanish-English : phrases, expressions, locutions, clichés, idioms, sayings, saws, proverbs, etc.Barcelona : Ediciones del Serbal, c1995.

Online language dictionaries
Online Language Dictionaries English Language:

  • http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dict_en_es/

    • Format – can search and browse in both languages

    • Authority – The American Heritage Spanish Dictionary

    • Features – finds related words and verb forms; audio files

  • http://www.logos.it/pls/dictionary/new_dictionary.home_project?pjCode=10&lang=en&u_code=4395

    • Format – browse children’s dictionary or search adults’

    • Authority – collaboratively generated

    • Features – universal verb conjugator; some audio files


Thesauri English Language:

Definition English Language:

“a very specialized dictionary that deals

only with word synonyms and antonyms”

(Bopp and Smith)

Typical entry
Typical Entry English Language:

  • Word

  • Part of Speech

  • Definition

  • Synonyms

  • Antonyms

  • Slang, Informal, Idiom, Archaic

Exemplary print source
Exemplary Print Source English Language:

Easy to use English Language:

Clear distinctions between entries

Gives informal and colloquial synonyms

Has a “see also” section for most entries

Exemplary online source
Exemplary Online Source English Language:



  • Easy-to-read design layout

  • Concise, one-word definitions

  • Direct links to each synonym and antonym listed

  • Words from Roget’s New Millenium Thesaurus

Example sentences for each main entry and for each synonym English Language:

Also includes an indexes of irregular verbs and of idiomatic use of prepositions

Bartlett s familiar quotations
Bartlett’s English Language:Familiar Quotations

Guide to the Use of Familiar Quotations tells how the book is organized: chrono-logically by birth date of author

Index of Authors lists authors’ birth and death dates and page numbers

Index lists keywords alphabetically; tells page number and which entry on the page

Online sources
Online Sources is organized: chrono-logically by birth date of author


  • http://yourdictionary.com/

  • Links to Bartlett’s (through Bartleby) and The Quotations Page

Online sources1
Online Sources is organized: chrono-logically by birth date of author

  • Searching for “To be or not to be” in several online quotation databases yielded no results related to Shakespeare or Hamlet

  • Searching for “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and Wordsworth yielded no results

Quotation books by subject
Quotation Books by Subject is organized: chrono-logically by birth date of author

  • Much narrower scope

  • Alphabetized by subject—It is nearly impossible to find a specific quote, even if you know who said it

Examples is organized: chrono-logically by birth date of author

  • The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

  • A Book in Hand is Worth Two in the Library

Questions comments
Questions? Comments? is organized: chrono-logically by birth date of author