How to use dictionary
2. Types of dictionaries and their content
3. Kinds of dictionaries:
1. general dictionaries;
2. special dictionaries:
1. bilingual dictionaries;
2. explanatory dictionaries;
3. etymological dictionaries;
4. dictionaries of synonyms;
5. phraseological dictionaries;
6. pronouncing dictionaries;
7. spelling dictionaries
4. How to use a dictionary. Dictionaries entries.
5. The encyclopedic material of some American dictionaries.
7. The list of literature.
Dictionaries are tools, and they are much more complicated, and capable of
many more uses then we suspect. All of us know students need encouragement
and guidance in the use of dictionaries. Some students are able to use
their dictionaries with anything like efficiency. Certainly there must be
very few of those who come up through the grades these days who are not
familiar with the details of looking up words in dictionaries, but it is
one thing to find a word in a dictionary and quite another to understand
fully information there given about it. Linguists and lexicographers have a
matter with dictionaries. Every linguist with an interest in the
quantitative properties of language will on some occasion be faced with
some form of the ultimate question in the word numbers game: ”How many
words did Shakespeare use?”, “How many words are there in the English
language?” “How many words should a dictionary have?” The first question,
at least, has a definite although not simple answer: Shakespeare’s complete
works consist of a total of 884647 words of text containing a grand total
of 29066 different words including proper names. But on the question ”How
many words should a dictionary have” it is very difficult to answer. Every
dictionary has a different number of words. On the contrary lexicographers
have a task to record the meanings of words, the task of arranging these
meanings in the orderthey think will be of most help to those who use their
work. Different editors solve this problem of arrangement in different
ways. In the prefatory part of any dictionary you will find some indication
of the plan that has been followed in arranging the meanings. In the
Werriam-Webster dictionaries the meanings are arranged as far as possible,
in the order in wich they arose. In those dictionaries, the first meanings
given are the earliest a word is known to have had, and the more modern
meanings come later. The arrangement of meanings is difficult, that’s why
the only safe course is to examine the forematter of the dictionary to see
what plan has been followed.
Dictionary is a book that contains a selected list of words arranged in
alphabetical order. It explains their meanings and gives information about
them. In a dictionary a person can look up a word quickly, discover what it
means and learn how it is prononced.
Dictionaries give the meanings of many kinds of words. Most modern
dictionaries describe the facts of a language as educated speakers and
writers use it. They are called descriptive dictionaries because a
dictionary editor does not change the facts of a language. Many older
dictionaries tried to prescribe rules, some of wich did not agree with the
way people commonly talked or wrote. These books are called prescriptive
dictionaries. Most general dictionaries include:
1) the ordinary words of everyday life, such as bread, run and with;
2) literary words used as aggregation, despoil, incontrovertible;
3) thechnical word, such as starboard, gene and ratio;
4) words used chiefly on informal occasions, such as gap and wimp;
5) words used in writing to give an old-fashioned flavor, such as aweary
6) words not used today but found in the writtings of some authors, such
as plaister for plaster;
7) words or phrases form other languages, such as coup d’etat from
French, tofu from Japanese and barrio from Spanish.
8) Idioms, such as split hairs and unter the thumb of;
9) Abbreviations, such as U.S.A., Kans., and p.;
10)Important propernames, such as Buddha and Jupiter.
No dictionary records all the words of our language. In fact, no one
knows exatly how many words there are. Besides ordinary words used in
evereryday speech, the English language includes thousands of geaografical
names; hundreds of thousands of technical terms, including more than 750000
names of inspects alone. New words are coined for newscientifiv and
technical discoveries, and slang words and specific vocabularies constantly
spring up. As nations draw closer together through trade and travel,
satellite communication, and sharing of technology, languages tend to
borrow more and more words from each other. That is why dictionary editors
must be selective in the words they decide to include.
Most dictionaries tell us much more than just the meanings of words.
Many list pronunciations, derivations, refixes and suffixes, illustrative
quotations, synonyms and other information. The illustration articles in
dictionaries show in detail what dictionaries contain.
Dictionaries may be clasified as general dictionaries and special
dictionaries. A general dictionary contains information on everyday words
such as it and the. But it also defines many technical terms, such as
chromatografhy and columella. A specialized dictionary omits most everyday
terms, and limits itself to information on words used in a particular
field, such as biology.
General dictionaries range in size from small pocket dictionaries to
large multivolume or table dictionaries. The number of entries in general
dictionary depends, on its purpose. Each dictionary is designed to answer
the questions of a certain type of reader. The World Book Dictioanry is an
example of a dictionary designed for family use. The largest general
dictionaries may contain over 400000 entries when a dictionary has this
many entries, many absolete and technical terms are included. Other general
dictionaries may have from 15000 entries to 200000 entries.
Specialized dictionaries are designed to give more information in
particular fields than general dictionaries can. Dictionaries of this kind
can be divided into such group as:
1) Explanatory dictionaries
2) Etymological dictionaries
3) Dictionaries of synonyms
4) Phraseological dictionaries.
Besides, such dictionaries can be mentioned as historical dialectal.
Bilingual or translating dictionaries reresent the most ordinary,
widespread type. They contain words and expressions of the native language
and their foreign equivalents, or vice-versa. (the English-Russian
dictionary by V. K. Miller, etc)
Explanatory dictionaries give definitions of word meanings. In fact to a
certain extent they acquaint us with the history of vocabulary development.
The explanation are given in the same language, so they are one-language
dictionaries, as it were. For example “Webster’s New World dictionary of
the American language”, Webster’s “New International dictionary of the
English language” are usually considered to be the most available and
popular editions. But the greatest authority, naturally, and the most
comprehensive is The New English dictionary on Historical Principles.
Etymological dictionaries state the origin of words. If borrowed, the
source of borrowing and the original form are given, with all the
subsequent changes in meaning and usage. If native, the Anglo-Dakon form is
given together with the history of word development paralel forms in other
Gemanic languages. Skeat’s Etymological dictionary is believed to be one of
the most widely used.
Dictionaries of synonymes give either groups of synonyms without any
explanations of difference in shades of meaning or usage, as concise
dictionaries usually do, or as in full-size synonymic dictionaries, one can
find lengthy definitions of every synonym that the group contains with even
directions as to how to use them. The dictionary of this kind is the
Webster’s dictionary of synonyms. It does not give any etymological or
historical information but it supplies very detailed and extensive
explanations of the subtlest shades of meaning that synonyms differ in. The
lists of synonymes are much more exhaustive than in the earlier
dictionaries of synonymes (e. g. amiable, lovable, gracious, cordial,
affable, genial, warm-hearted, warm, responsive, kind, tender, kindly,
Phraseological dictionaries deal with phraseological group of a certain
language(“English Idioms” by W. G. Smith, “English Idioms and how to use
them” by W. McMordie etc)
The best known phonetical dictionary is “An English Pronouncing
Dictionary” by Jones. Among dialectal dictionaries the “Slang Dictionary”
by Chatto and Windus is famous. It is also called “Ethymological,
Historical and Anecdotal”.
Before using a dictionary, one should become familiar with the metods,
principles, and scope of the book because various dictionaries are arranged
in different ways. Many American dictionaries are arranged in different
ways. Many american dictionaries arrange all entries in a single
alphabetical list. Others put abbreviations, geographical and biographical
names, and foreign words and phrases in separate lists, usually at the end
of the book. All good dictionaries today have introductory sections that
explain what the book contains and how it is arranged.
First of all let us now look carefully at some dictionary entries in an
effort to secure from them all the information they contain. We shall begin
by looking closely at the entry anecdote in the College edition of
Webster’s New World Dictionary.
an.ec.dote(an’ik-dot’), n, [Fr. ;ML. Anecdota;Gr. Anekdota, neut. Pl. of
anecdots unpublished;an-, not+ekdotos<ekdidonai;ek-, out+didonai, to give]
1) pl. Originally, little-known, entertaining facts of history or
2) a short, entertaining account of some happening, usually personal or
biographical. –SIN. , see story.
This dictionary makes etymology one of its strong features and so serves
exceptionally well for our purpose.
The following things about this entry are of interest:
1) The entry word, printed in boldface to give it more prominence, is
divided by periods into its three syllables. This form of division not only
helps out with the pronunciation of a word, but it also gives assistance to
one whohas to divide a word at the end of a line of writing or printing.
In such cases, words should be devided with respect to their syllables.
2) then, within curves, the word is rewritten, this time in symbols that
show pronunciation. A heavy accent mark, immediately follows the syllable
which receives most stress, and a lighter mark indicates the syllable
getting minor stress. A sylable, here Ik, which gets no stress is followed
by a hyphen. Following the indication of pronuciation comes the
abbreviation of the of speech to wich the word belongs.
3) It is well-accepted dictionary procedure to place etymologies in
square brackets just after the indication of the part of speech of the
word involved. Etymology easier to follow if we begin at the very end
of it and proceed back to its beginning.
In Greek there was a verb, “didinai”, meaning “to give”. A common prefix,
ek-, was often used before this verb and it then became “ekdidonai” (to
give out). From this expanded form of the verb Greek formed an adjective,
“ekdotos”, given out. In Greek it was customary to prefix an- to adjectives
beginning with a vowel and thus reverse or negate their meanings. So the
Greeks formed “anekdotos”, not given out.
Greek adjectives had masculine, feminine, and neuter forms. The neuter
plural of “anekdotos” was “anekdota”, unpublished things, that is, things
not given out. Latin, during the medieval period, borrowed “anekdota” in
the form “anecdota”. This latin term passed into French, where it was
spelled “anecdote”. From French the word, unchanged in form, passed into
4) The meanings are given in the order of their ages, the oldest meaning
being given first. Observe how original meaning ledon to sense 2, the
one which nowadays the word usually has.
5) At the very end of the entry there is a reference to story for a
presentation of the synonyms of “anekdote”.
Dictionaries perform a useful service by distinguishing between such
terms as “anecdote”, “narrative”, “tale”, “story”.
Of course, the larger a dictionary is, the more information one can
obtain from it. Here is the entry “anecdote” as it appears in the current
large unabridged Webster’s New International dictionary, Second edition.
an’ec-dote (an’ek-dot; an’ik-), n
[Fr. Fr. Ir. Anekdotos not published, fr. An- not + ekdotos given out,
fr. Ekdidonai to gove out, to publish, fr ek- out+didonai to give. See DATE
point of time]
1) pl. Literally, unpublished items; narratives of secret or private
details of history;-often in book titles Now rare.
2) A narrative, sually brief, of a separable incident or event of
curious interst, told without nealice and usually with intent to
amuse or please,often biographical and vharacteristic of some notable
person,esp. of his likable faibles. (Some modern anecdotes over, he
noded in his elbow chair. Prior)
Syn. –see story.
An’ec-dote v. I. To tell anecdotes-v. t.
To use as a subject for anecdotes. Both rare.
Notice that the etymology here ends with a reference to the entry DATE,
meaning a point of time. An inspection of the etymology “given of that
entry reveals that “anecdote” belongs to a group of words that are related
because they all trace their ancestry, in whole or in part, back to the
same IE root that os seen in the Greek verb didonai, meaning to give. Here
is the lst of words Webster cities as being related in the manner
indicated: anecdote, condone, dado, damu, dative, datum, die, n..., donate,
dose, dower, edit, pardon, render, sacerdotal.
One of the unique and highly valuable features of the unabridged Merriam-
Webster is that it often groups words basically related, because they, or
parts of them, go back to a common ancestor word. No othe english
dictionary gives so much of this kind of information. Some of the commonest
words in the language have a surpisingly large number of relatives.
In the dictionary Century the entry of the word anecdote is as follows:
Anecdote(an’ek-dot), n[<F. Anecdote,
First in pl. Anecdotes, M. L. Anecdota, <Gr. ,
pl., things unpublished, applied by Procopius to his memoirs of Justinian,
which consisted chiefly of gossip about the private life of the court;prop.
Neut. pl. of ]
1) pl. secret history; facts relating to secret or private affairs, as of
governments or of individuals: often used (commonly in the form
anecdota) as the title of works treating of such matters.
2) A short narrative of a particular or detached incident; a single
passage of private life, =Syn. Anecdote, Story.
An anecdote is the relation of an interesting or amusing incident,
generally of a private nature, and is always reported as true/
A story may be true or fictious, and generally has reference to a series
of incidents so arranged and related as to be entertaining.
In this treatment of the word there are some things not observed before:
1) as is often done in dictionaries, thi sign < is used freely in the
sense of ‘from’. One instance of its use is seen in the etymology
2) According to the etymology given here, the form which anecdote had in
French was the plural, a form to be expected from the word’s being
derived from a plural in Latin and in Greek. With this informatinon,
it is easier to understand why it was in its plural form that the word
made its first appearance in Engish.
3) The remainder f the Century entry is easily understood with the
possible exeption of the abbreviation”priv,. ” for privative, a word
used in grammar in connection with those prefixes which change the
sense of a word from a positive to a negative one, as do un-, il-, in-
, ir-, in English.(Compae such words as lawful, unlawful, legal,
illegal; tolerant, intolerant, regular, irregular). Greek made use of
a prefix of this kind, a-, which might also appear as an-. In Greek
grammar this prefix is referred to as” alpha privative”
It may appear to the beginner that by this time we have certainly found
out all there is to know about anecdote, but we have not.
Here is how the entry looks in the Oxford English dictionary.
Anecdote( ). [a fr. Anecdote, or ad. Its source,
med. L. Anecdota(see sense I), a. Gr. Things unpublished, f.
Published, f. To give out,
publish, applied by Procopies to his “Unpublished Memories” of the of the
Emperor Justinian, which consisted chiefly of tales of the private life of
the court;whence the application of the name to short stories or
1) pl. Secret, private, or hitherbo unpublished narratives or details of
history. (At first, and how again occas. Used in L form anecdota(
) 1676 MARVELL Mr. Smirke Wks. 1875 IV.41. A man ... might make a
pleasant story of the anecdota of that meeting. 1727. Swift”Gulliver” VIII.
230. Those who pretend to write anecdotes, or secret history[...]
2) The narrative of a detached incident, or of a single event, event told
as being in itself interesting or striking( At first, An item of gossip)
1761 Gorke in Elli’s Orig. Left 11. 483. IV. 429. Monsieur Coccei will
tell you all the anecdotes of London better then I can[...] 1838. Ht.
12. He told some anecdotes of Alfred’s childhood. Mod. An after-dinner
1826 Disraeli Viv. Grey 3. II. 95 A companion who knew everything,
everyone, full of wit and anecdote.
3) Comb. , as anecdote-book, -loving;anecdote-monger a retailer of
1) With the information already given, it is easy to understand the
etymology of this entry. It should be observed that according to it,
anecdote may not have come into English from French, but directly from
midieval Latin. That this source is likely is suggested by the
spelling the word has in the earliest example found of its use in
English. Had it come from french anecdotes, it is not easy to see why
Marvel in 1676 spelled it anecdota. Of course, it may have come into
English both from French and from Latin.
2) The most noteworthy feature of this entry, and of the dictionary from
which it comes, is that the definitions are followed by examples of
the use of the word in the senses given. These examples all follow the
same pattern. First comes the date, than the authors name in small
capitals, than thie title of the work cited, usually abbreviated,
followed by the number of the page. The use of illustrative
quotationsis a marked feature of historical dictionaries. They are
given generously in the OED, there being about 1827306 of them in that
It wod be a mistake, however, to conclude that the earliest example given
in the OED for a word in a particular sense is really the first time the
word uccurs in print. The OED is a remarkable dictionary, but it would bu
much more so if those who collected, material for it had been able to find
the very first printed uses of all the words with extremely useful to have
such dates as are given, but they should not be misinterpreted.
3) Under 3 in the above entry there are given combinations into which
anecdote has entered. The first two of these, anecdote-book, and anecdote-
loving, are illustrated by only one example each. Neither of the
expressions appears to have been much used. The same may be said of
anecdote-monger, which is treated slingtly differently becouse two examples
of its use were available.
The modern American dictionary is typically a single compact volume
published at a relatively modest price containing:
1) definitive American spellings;
2) pronunciation indicated by diacritical markings;
3) strictly limited etymologies;
4) numbered senses;
5) some illustrations;
6) selective treatment of synonyms and antonyms;
7) enxyclopedic inclusion of scientific, technological, geofraphical, and
The first American dictionaries were unpretentious little schoolbooks
based chiefly on Johnson’s Dictionary of 1775 by way of various English
abridgments of that work. The most famous work of this class, Noah Websters
Compedious Dictionary of the English Language(1806) was an enlargement of
Entick’s spelling Dictionary (London 1764), distinguished from its
predecessors chiefly by a few encyclopedic supplements and emphasis upon
its Aericanism. The book was never popular and contributed little either to
Webster’s own reputation or to the development of the American dictionary
The first important date in American lexicography is 1828. The work that
makes it important is Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English
Language in two volumes. Webster’s book has many deficiencies-etymologies
quite untouched by the linguistic sciense of the time, a rudimentary
pronunciation system actually inferior to that used by Walker in 1791, etc.
–but in its insistence upon American spellings, in definitions keyed to the
American scene, and in its illustrative quotatons from the founding Fathers
of the Republic, it provided the country with the first native dictionary
comparable in scope with that of Dr. Jhonson. Probably its greatest
contribution to succeding American dictionaries was the style of definition
writing-writing of a clarity and pithiness never approached before its day.
The first American lexicographer to hit upon the particular pattern that
disbinguishes the American dictionary was Webster’s lifelong rival, Joseph
E. Worcesfer. His Comprehensive Pronouncing, and Explanation Dictionary of
the English Language(1830), actually a thoroughly revised abridgment of
Webster’s two-volume work of 1828, was characterised by the additions of
new words, a more conservative spelling, brief, well phrased definitions,
full indication of pronunciation by means of diacritics, use of stress
marks to divide syllables, and lists of synonyms. Because it was compact
and low priced, it immediately became popular-far more popular in fact,
than any of Webster’s own dictionaries in his own lifetime.
In the field of unabridged dictionaries, the most important accretion is
the great /american linguist, William Dwight Whitney and issued in six
volumes. At the moment , the most important advances in lexicography are
taking place in the field of the abridged collegiate-type dictionaries.
Meanwhile the scholarly dictionary has not been neglected. Once the New
English dictionary Was published, scholarly opinion reealized the need to
supplement it in the various periods of English and particulary in American
English. The first of the proposed supplements, edited by Sir William
Graigie and Professor G. R. Hulbert, is the Dictionary of American English
on Historical Princples., completed in 1944. This was followed by a
dictionary of Americanisms, edited by Mitford M. Mathews and publishied in
1951. A Middle English Dictionary, a dictionary of Later Scottish are in
preparation, and work on the American Dialect society is now under way.
1) Dictionaries prooide with various kinds of useful information. Some of
them, besides entries, have additional articles about the English
language, forms of address, weights and measures, special signs and
symbols, common given names, some list historical events, and some,
home remedies and so on.
2) The common reader turns to a dictionary far information about
spelling, pronunciation, meaning and proper use of words, He wants to
know what is current and respectable. He wants to know facts about any
language, especially difference berween the American and English
3) The average purcaser of a dictionary uses it most often, probably, to
find out what a word “means”. As a reader he wants to know what the
author intended to convey. As the speaker or writer, he wants to know
what a word will convey to his editors. And this too, is complex,
subtle and forever changing thing.
4) Dictionary material which are in different kinds of dictionaries
widely uses in language investigations by linguists.
5) Using the dictionary helps us to improve our language. We learn more
and more new words, phrases, set expressions. Our vocabulary becomes
richer and our language becomes more connected and tuneful
The list of literature
1. Readings in Modern English lexicology. Ëåíèíãðàä-1975þ
2. V Kuznetsova. Notes on English lexicology Ê. Ðàäÿíñüêà øêîëà 1966
3. I. V. Arnold. The English word Ì. Âèùà øêîëà 1986
4. Ðàºâñüêà Í. Ì. English Lexicology. Ê. Âèùà øêîëà. 1971.
5. Educational book guilt New York 1957
6. The World Book Encyclopedia. Chcago. London. Sydney. Toronto 1994
7. The american heritage dictionary. Second college edition. Houghton
Misslin. Company Boston. 1983
8. Webster’s New world dictionary of the american language. David. B.
Guralnik, general editor. 1985
9. Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English language. (secon
edition, unabridged) G&C. Merian Company, publishers Springfield,
Mass. USA. 1958.
10. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language. William
Morris. Boston/ New York/ Atlanta/ Geneva/ Dallas/ Palo Alto 1969