How to use dictionary

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  1. Introduction
  2. Types of dictionaries and their content
  3. Kinds of dictionaries:
  4. general dictionaries;
  5. special dictionaries:
  6. bilingual dictionaries;
  7. explanatory dictionaries;
  8. etymological dictionaries;
  9. dictionaries of synonyms;
  10. phraseological dictionaries;
  11. pronouncing dictionaries;
  12. spelling dictionaries


  1. How to use a dictionary. Dictionaries entries.
  2. The encyclopedic material of some American dictionaries.
  3. Conclusions
  4. 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: Shakespeares 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, thats 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 and avaunt;
  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 detat 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 “Websters New World dictionary of the American language”, Websters “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. Skeats 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 Websters 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, begignant, benign).

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 anecd