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Types of Dictionaries
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Collegiate Dictionaries, Specialized Dictionaries, and Online Resources

Collegiate Dictionaries

Here is more detailed information about the three popular collegiate dictionaries mentioned in the text:

•  The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th edition
Comes with a free CD-ROM that features audio pronunciations and a thesaurus, a reference that gives synonyms and related words. The 2004 edition includes nearly 10,000 new words, tens of thousands of sample sentences and quotations that illustrate how to use words, and more than 2,500 pictures.

•  Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition
Comes with a CD-ROM, a free one-year subscription to their online collegiate dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia, a Spanish-English dictionary, and a reverse dictionary that lets you look up words by their meaning. (For example, suppose you can think of the word croissant or aren't sure how to spell it. Look under " bread, curved, French, " and there you'll find the word croissant .)

•  Random House Webster's College Dictionary
Contains the greatest number of new words since it is updated every year. Marked sample pages give clear instructions for using the dictionary. At the back are lists of frequently misspelled and confused words, a grammar guide, maps, and other helpful reference material.

Bad Speller's Dictionaries
Here is additional information about the "bad speller's dictionaries" that are mentioned in the chapter. As you might recall, to find the correct spelling of a word, you look it up according to the way it sounds, and by the ways they are most often misspelled. Many of these books are small enough to carry with you, such as 1,001 Commonly Misspelled Words, Random House Webster's Pocket Bad Speller's Dictionary, Webster's New Word Pocket Misspeller's Dictionary (which also shows words divided into syllables), and How to Spell It: A Handbook of Commonly Misspelled Words.

Other Specialized Dictionaries and Online Resources

Did you know that you can easily and quickly look up the definition or synonyms of any word in a Microsoft Word document? Use the mouse to place the cursor on the word, hold down CONTROL, and click on the word. On the smaller menu that pops up, click either "Look Up" or "Synonyms," depending on which you want. You will then see that information. This feature uses the Encarta World English Dictionary.
      In addition to the college dictionaries listed above, there are countless types of specialized dictionaries, both in print and online. In fact, lists more than 111,000 dictionaries! There are specialized hardcover dictionaries for almost every academic subject. You can buy dictionaries, for example, that contain only words that pertain to economics, literature, art, philosophy, computer science, and so forth.
      There are dictionaries of synonyms and antonyms, as well as thesauruses. Want to write poetry or song lyrics? There are dictionaries of rhyming words. There are dictionaries of famous quotations and sayings, listed by topic and author. There are dictionaries of foreign terms, terms such as comme il faut, compadre, ad infinitum, karma, rendezvous, carpe diem, semper fidelis, bona fide, quid pro quo, tempus fugit, and pax vobiscum.

•  Are you a visual learner? Check out The Macmillan Visual Desk Reference . It's loaded with thousands of illustrations, diagrams and charts to accompany brief explanations of more than a thousand topics from more than fifty subject areas. Also, see for wonderful word webs (“maps” of related words).

•  A helpful reference for all college students is The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph Kett, and James Trefil. In it, you can look up descriptions of important people, places, and events. Not sure who Winston Churchill was? Need to know the dates of World War I? What is meant by Type A and Type B personalities? What the Taj Mahal is, and where it's located? What pheromones are? Who Odysseus was? What the abbreviation “R.I.P” stands for? It's all in this fascinating, easy-to-use reference. It is also available online at

•  There are dictionaries of idioms and slang terms. These can be especially beneficial if English is not your first language. For example, at, you can click on Slang in the Student Stuff category.

•  Franklin makes a small, handheld electronic dictionary that includes a thesaurus, as well as vocabulary games and other activities. You type in the word you want to look up. An especially nice feature is that you can type a word the way it sounds (such as nolij ) and it finds the right word under the correct spelling ( knowledge ). PalmPilot, a handheld PDA, offers dictionary software.

•  Wizcom Technologies, Inc.,, makes specialized pens that resemble broad, flat highlighters. They offer three pens that can be of particular help to college students. Their SuperPen comes loaded with The American Heritage Dictionary , as well as specialized ones for medical, investment, computer and Internet, science, and geography terms. It also includes abbreviations, idioms, and a thesaurus. By running a pen over a word to scan it, you bring up the definition in the small LED window on the pen. You can also hear a single word or a line of text read aloud. Their Readingpen provides immediate support for readers of college texts, by displaying definitions, as well as speaking aloud words, sentences, and definitions. Their Quicktionary II Elite pen combines language translation, English definitions, and audio. It is available in several languages. Because these pens utilize sophisticated technology, they are relatively expensive (ranging from $180-$280).

The Internet offers countless dictionaries and word-related websites, such as:

• : This is a dictionary clearinghouse that allows you to link to a wealth of dictionary websites. The website indexes more than six million words in nearly a thousand dictionaries. It also offers a “reverse dictionary” feature. With the reverse dictionary, you can type in a phrase such as “green fruit,” and a list of them will come up (lime, grapes, papaya, etc.). Or, let's say that you know there is a term for a person who is a museum guide, but do not know what it is. Simply type in “museum guide,” and you'll see words such as “docent” and “curator.”

• : This includes an English dictionary, computer dictionary, thesaurus (which gives related words, and includes synonyms and antonyms), a dream dictionary (the meaning of images that occur in dreams), and a medical dictionary.

• : This website offers English, medical, legal, and computer dictionaries, a thesaurus, encyclopedia, and a literary reference library all in one. You can also look up words by category or academic subject (such as gardening, holidays, biology, politics, psychology, or music). The website also has a historical timeline, reference tables, biographies, countries, and how-to's.

• : You can look up definitions from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary at this website. (Access to their online Collegiate Dictionary requires a subscription fee.) In addition to reading definitions, you can hear the words pronounced. There are also word games and a word-of-the-day feature.

• : This site gives the meaning of more than 345,000 acronyms and abbreviations. An acronym is a word from the initials or other parts of several words. Common acronyms, for example, are ASAP, NATO, FYI, and BTW.

• : This site tracks neologisms or new words that are coming into our language, such as weddingmoon , a vacation that includes both a wedding ceremony and a honeymoon; mobile speed bump, a car that travels at the speed limit to force the cars behind to do the same, and fur-kid , a pet that is treated as if it were its owner's child.

• : This site contains a collection of more than 3,000 words that are often confused or misused.

• : Although this site is aimed at students who speak English as a second language, it contains features that most students would enjoy and benefit from. Click on "Vocabulary" for practice exercises, quizzes, vocabulary games, 5,000 collegiate words, an academic word list, and vocabulary improvement through the study of roots, prefixes, and suffixes. There are also extensive links for business English, pronunciation, idioms, and more.

• : Another site for ESL students, but with information that's useful to a much wider range of students.

• : This RhymeZone site includes, among other features, rhyming words and a reverse dictionary.

• : Become a linguaphile (a lover of languages and words)! For a fun way to increase your vocabulary, sign up for Wordsmith's website for a free word-a-day email. (See ORL Reading Selection 10 about the man who created this website and sends the word-a-day emails.)

• provides links to dictionaries in a variety of languages and fields, such as business, computing, finance, and medicine. It also features a thesaurus, rhyming words, abbreviations and acronyms, and synonyms and antonyms, to name just a few. You can also see what your name looks like written in several different languages, such as ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

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