(redirected from Dictonary)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
Related to Dictonary: thesaurus


dictionary, published list, in alphabetical order, of the words of a language. In monolingual dictionaries the words are explained and defined in the same language; in bilingual dictionaries they are translated into another language. Modern dictionaries usually also provide phonetic transcriptions, hyphenation, synonyms, derived forms, and etymology. However, a dictionary of a living language can never be complete; old words fall into disuse, new words are constantly created, and those surviving frequently change their meanings. The modern dictionary is often prescriptive rather than descriptive, for it attempts to establish certain forms as preferable. The most remarkable case of this sort is the dictionary of the French Academy, which is both widely admired and ignored. The popular American attitude of the 19th cent. toward dictionaries gave them a nearly sacred authority, but in the 20th cent. the dictionary makers themselves began to replace notions of purity (especially based on etymology) by criteria of use, somewhat ahead of analogous developments in grammar. Because of the unprecedented scientific advances of the 20th cent., many scientific terms have come into popular use and consequently have increased the size of general dictionaries.

Early English Dictionaries

Lexicography is an ancient occupation; dictionaries of many sorts were produced in China, Greece, Islam, and other complex early cultures. The 13th-century Dictionarius of John of Garland is the first recorded use of the term to mean word list. Nathan Bailey (d. 1742) was the author of three English dictionaries so much more comprehensive and consistent than any of their predecessors as rightly to be considered the first examples of modern lexicography. His Universal Etymological English Dictionary was published in 1721; his larger dictionary, Dictionarium Britannicum, was published in 1730. An interleaved copy of this larger work was used by Samuel Johnson in preparing the two-volume Dictionary of the English Language, which appeared in 1755. Johnson's definitions evince his scholarship, humor, judgment, and skill and are basic to later lexicography. William Kenrick, who published a dictionary in 1773, was first to indicate pronunciation with diacritical marks (see accent) and to divide words according to their syllables. The dictionary of Thomas Sheridan (1721–88), an actor, was published in 1780, and the dictionary of John Walker (1732–1807), also an actor, in 1791. In both these dictionaries special care was given to pronunciation, as to which, for many years, Walker's authority received more deference than it merited.

The American Dictionaries of Webster and Others

The next great lexicographer after Samuel Johnson was an American, Noah Webster (1758–1843). The first edition of the book later known as Webster's Spelling Book appeared in 1783. For years the annual sales of this book were more than a million copies. To help those who had mastered the Spelling Book to continue their education, Webster published (1806) his Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, with concern for “what the English language is, and not, how it might have been made.” His larger dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, in two volumes, was published in 1828. Authorized publishers have issued a series of skillful revisions and abridgments that have retained for Webster's dictionaries their popularity. The largest of Webster's dictionaries, called “the Unabridged,” appeared as the 5th edition (1846) and included linguistic material that set it apart from previous Webster's dictionaries and made it outstanding. Continually revised, it is currently published in one volume.

Another notable one-volume American dictionary was that by Joseph Emerson Worcester (1784–1865), first published in 1830; an edition revised by the author appeared in 1860 and was the first to employ a group of expert consultants, use illustrations, and indicate synonyms in the text. A later one-volume American dictionary was the Funk and Wagnalls Standard, completed in 1895. This dictionary listed definitions according to current rather than historical frequency of usage, an innovation that was generally adopted. The Century Dictionary, an American dictionary in six volumes, with encyclopedic features, was completed in 1891. Supplementary volumes were The Century Cyclopedia of Names (1894) and The Century Atlas of the World (1897).

Illustrative Examples and the Oxford Dictionaries

In England, progress in lexicography since Walker's time has been notably in the collection and organization of examples of usage. In 1836–37, Charles Richardson (1775–1865) published, in two volumes, a dictionary richer in illustrative examples than any of its predecessors. In 1857 the Philological Society began collecting dated examples of usage. This work of the Philological Society made possible the publication of the dictionary variously known as the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), and Murray's Dictionary (for Sir James A. H. Murray, 1837–1915, one of the editors). Publication of this dictionary began in 1884 and was completed in 1928, 70 years after the collecting of the material began. The 12 volumes and supplement of this monumental and unrivaled lexicon described the history of some 250,000 English words, incorporating more than 2 million citations of usage in the process of defining a total of nearly 415,000 words. A 20-volume second edition, published in 1989, incorporates the four-volume supplement and contains over 616,000 words. Two major shorter editions are published: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (5th ed. 1964) and the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (rev. ed. 1993). A much less ambitious but notable project is the four-volume Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles, edited by Sir William Alexander Craigie. It was completed in 1943.

Notable Recent Dictionaries

Recent advances in lexicography have been made by the frequently revised collegiate or desk dictionary, an up-to-date abridgment of a large, comprehensive work. The Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed. 2008) is based on Webster's Third New International Dictionary, published in 1961; it has many notable competitors. Also notable are several modern American dictionaries of intermediate size, including the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2d ed. 1987) and the well-illustrated American Heritage Dictionary (5th ed. 2011). Another significant contemporary dictionary, 50 years in the making, is the comprehensive Dictionary of American Regional English (5 vol., 1985–2012).

In the early 1990s computer technology made possible the release of dictionaries on floppy disks or CD-ROM, e.g., the electronic edition of The Random House Unabridged Dictionary (1993). Electronic dictionaries also became available as part of multivolume reference-book packages, such as Microsoft's Bookshelf CD-ROM, and as a feature of online services. Computer technology provided new ways to search for and link words and new ways to illustrate them, e.g., prerecorded pronunciations that users can play back. By the end of the 1990s many dictionaries were available in various print and electronic editions; the newly created Encarta World English Dictionary (1999) was released both as a printed book and a CD-ROM. Dictionaries or dictionarylike functions are now also available independently on the Internet, as a feature of search websites, and as applications for smartphones and other electronic devices.


See J. Green, Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made (1997); P. Martin, The Dictionary Wars (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a reference work containing words (sometimes also morphemes and combinations of words) arranged in a certain order and explaining the meanings of the units described, providing information about the units or their translation into another language, or supplying data on the subjects designated by the units.

Dictionaries play a large role in intellectual culture, reflecting the knowledge of a given society during a certain period. Dictionaries fulfill two social functions: an informative one, because they allow knowledge to be acquired as quickly as possible (through definitions), and a normative one, because they fix the meanings and usages of words and thus facilitate the improvement and standardization of language as a means of communication. Dictionaries were first compiled in remote antiquity and have taken on an ever greater role in accumulating and providing information throughout history.

The principal type of dictionary is the unilingual defining dictionary, which indicates the meaning, usage, and grammatical and phonetic features of words. Dictionaries of this type vary in size. Their normative function is carried out through the selection of entries and meanings and with the aid of examples and stylistic labels. Other types of dictionaries differ from defining dictionaries in various ways. Encyclopedic dictionaries differ in content, explaining not words but the concepts designated by the words. In their selection of vocabulary items, thesauri encompass a language’s entire lexicon. Some dictionaries reflect only some of the thematic and stylistic strata of the lexicon; among these are dictionaries of terms, dialectal expressions, the colloquial language, argot, and the literary language. Other dictionaries contain only special variants of words, such as neologisms, archaisms, rare words, abbreviations, foreign words, and proper names. Some dictionaries differ from defining dictionaries in the way words are described; these specialized works, which take up individual aspects of words and the relationships between words, include dictionaries of etymology, word-formation, word combinations, grammar, orthography, orthoepy, synonyms, antonyms, paronyms, frequency, and rhymes.

Some dictionaries differ from defining dictionaries in that the units chosen for lexicographic description are less or more than a word: roots, morphemes, idioms, or quotations. In ideographic and analogical dictionaries, words are arranged not alphabetically but by semantic associations. Entries in reverse dictionaries are arranged alphabetically proceeding from the last letter of the word to the first. Data can be arranged according to a certain chronology, as in the case of historical dictionaries. Dictionaries compiled for specific readerships include learners’ dictionaries and dictionaries of errors and linguistic difficulties. Some dictionaries are bilingual or multilingual.

Dictionaries characteristically consist of articles in which the entries are interpreted by means of words, specially formulated explanations (a metalanguage), examples, and nonlinguistic means (drawings). Modern dictionaries employ different typefaces, a number of conventional signs, and various typographic devices, frequently using tables to explain the relationships between

Figure 1. Components of diazotype photocopiers, (a) Exposure mechanism: (1) roll of diazo paper, (2) feed for the original, (3) reflector, (4) output tray for the original, (5) exposed diazo paper, (6) glass cylinder, (7) mercury-quartz lamp, (8) paper-transport tape; (b) wet-process developing mechanism: (1) trough for alkaline solution, (2) guides, (3) exposed diazo paper, (4) squeeze rollers, (5) drying device; (c) dry-process developing mechanism; (1) exposed diazo paper, (2) feed tube for ammonia, (3) screen, (4) trough, (5) housing, (6) heating elements.

words and any linguistic peculiarities the words may have.

When a dictionary is being compiled, the problem arises of the relationship between the information being provided and the general linguistic knowledge of the speakers of the language. The words are selected and the information about the words is provided in accordance with the purpose of the dictionary, based on an analysis of texts, speech samples, and existing dictionaries and grammars; the compilers’ own linguistic experience is also a factor.

Defining dictionaries also address the problem of the relationship between language and speech: dictionaries present words in an isolated form, noting primarily the words’ mandatory and constant meanings, whereas in living speech the meanings of words may undergo changes. In order to give some indication of the state of a word in language and speech, dictionaries derive the meaning of the word from usage in various contexts; they accompany the word with notes, qualifications, examples, and illustrations that indicate the situations in which the word is used and the associations connected with the word. Defining dictionaries and certain other types of dictionaries try to resolve the problems of word arrangement (alphabetical, by root) and the structuring of definitions in such a way as to reflect the overall structure of the language’s lexical component and the semantic structure of individual words. They also seek to resolve the problem of isolating and interpreting meanings through contemporary lexicographic methods and the development of a lexicographic metalanguage.

Principal dictionaries of Russian


Slovar’ Akademii Rossiiskoi, parts 1–6. St. Petersburg, 1789–94. Second ed.: St. Petersburg, 1806–22.

Slovar’ tserkovnoslavianskogo i russkogo iazyka, fascs. 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1847.

Dal’, V. I. Tolkovyi slovar’ zhivogo velikorusskogo iazyka, parts 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1863–66. Third ed., parts 1–4: St. Petersburg-Moscow, 1903–11. (Edited by I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay.) Sixth ed., parts 1–4: Moscow, 1955.

Tolkovyi slovar’ russkogo iazyka. Edited by D. N. Ushakov, vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1935–40. Second ed., vols. 1–4: Moscow, 1947–48.

Slovar’ russkogo iazyka, vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1957–61.

Slovar’ sovremennogo russkogo literaturnogo iazyka, vols. 1–17. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950–65.

Ozhegov, S. I. Slovar’ russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1949. Tenth ed.: Moscow, 1973.

Language of Writers

Slovar’ iazyka Pushkina, vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1956–61.


Sreznevskii, I. I. Materialy dlia slovaria drevnerusskogo iazyka po pis’mennym pamiatnikam, vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1890–1912. Third ed., vols. 1–3: Moscow, 1958.

Slovar’ russkogo iazyka XI-XVll vv., fascs. 1–2. Moscow, 1975—.


Preobrazhenskii, A. Etimologicheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka, vols. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1910–16. Second ed., vols. 1–2: Moscow. 1959.

Vasmer, M. Etimologicheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka, vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1964–73. (Translated from German.)

Shanskii, N. M. Etimologicheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka, vol. 1. Moscow, 1963—. (As of 1975, to Zh.)


Slovar’ russkikh narodnykh govorov, fascs. 1–10—. Moscow, 1965–74—.

Synonyms and homonyms

Abramov, N. Slovar’ russkikh sinonimov i skhodnykh po smyslu vyrazhenii. St. Petersburg, 1900.

Aleksandrova, Z. E. Slovar’ sinonimov russkogo iazyka. Moscow. 1968. Third ed.: Moscow, 1971.

Slovar’ sinonimov russkogo iazyka, vols. 1–2. Leningrad, 1970–71.

Slovar’ sinonimov. Leningrad, 1975.

Akhmanova, O. S. Slovar’omonimov russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1974.


Mikhel’son, M. I. Khodiachie i metkie slova. St. Petersburg, 1894. Second ed.: St. Petersburg, 1896.

Frazeologicheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1967.

Zhukov, V. P. Slovar’ russkikh poslovits i pogovorok. Moscow, 1966. Third ed.: Moscow, 1966.


Novye slova i znacheniia. Moscow, 1971.

Foreign words and expressions

Slovar’ inostrannykh slov, 6th ed. Moscow, 1964.

Babkin, A. M., and V. V. Shendetsov. Slovar’ inoiazychnykh vyrazhenii i slov, upotrebliaiushikhsia v russkom iazyke bez perevoda, parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.


Slovar’ sokrashchenii russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1963.

Personal names

Tupikov, N. M. Slovar’ drevnerusskikh lichnykh sobstvennykh imen. St. Petersburg, 1903.

Petrovskii, N. A. Slovar’ russkikh lichnykh imen. Moscow, 1966.

Veselovskii, S. B. Onomastikon. Moscow, 1974.

Slovar’ nazvanii zhitelei RSFSR. Moscow, 1964.

Correctness of oral and written expression

Orfograficheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1956. Thirteenth ed.: Moscow, 1974.

Slitno ili razdel’no? (Opyt slovaria-spravochnika.) Moscow, 1972.

Russkoe literaturnoe udarenie i proiznoshenie. Moscow, 1955. Fourth ed.: Moscow, 1960.

Trudnosti slovoupotrebleniia i varianty norm russkogo literaturnogo iazyka. Leningrad, 1973.

Krysin, L. P., and L. I. Skvortsov. Pravil’nost’ russkoi rechi, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.

Bel’chikov, Iu. A., and M. S. Paniusheva. Trudnye sluchai upotrebleniia odnokorennykh slov russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1968.


Shteinfel’dt, E. A. Chastotnyi slovar’ sovremennogo russkogo literaturnogo iazyka. Tallinn, 1973.

Obratnyi slovar’russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1974.

Major modern defining dictionaries of foreign languages


Kh’atlene, A., and Z. Klerashche. Adyga”zem izekhef gushchylakh”. Maikop, 1960.


Schoonees, P. C. Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse taal. Pretoria, 1950—.


Ibn Manzur Muhammad ibn Mukarram M. Lisan al-Arab, 20 vols. 2nd ed. Beirut, 1955–66.

al-Mujam al-wasit, 2 vols. Cairo, 1960–1961.


Malkhasiants, S. Tolkovyi slovar’ armianskogo iazyka, vols. 1–4. Yerevan, 1944–45. (In Armenian.)


Azerbaijan dilinin izahly lughati, parts 1—. Baku, 1964—.


Bangiya Sabda Kosh, vols. 1–5. Calcutta, 1932.


Rechnik na suvremenniia bulgarski knizhoven ezik, vols. 1–3. Sofia, 1954–59.


Fabra, P. Diccionari general de la llengua Catalana, 4th ed. Barcelona, 1966.


Tz’u yüan, vols. 1–3. Shanghai, 1933.

Ch’i hai(A Sea of Words), vols. 1–5. Shanghai, 1938.

Kuovü tz’ u tien, vols. 1–8, 1943.


Příručni slovník jazyka českého, vols. 1–8. Prague, 1935–57.

Slovník spisovného jazyka českého, vols. Prague, 1958–71.


Ordbog over det danske sprog, vols. 1–24, 26–28. Copenhagen, 1919–56. Second ed.: Copenhagen, 1966–70.

Nudansk ordbog, vols. 1–2. Copenhagen, 1953. Fifth ed.: Copenhagen. 1967.


Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal, vols. 1–22. The Hague, 1882–91.

Dale, I. H. van. Groot Woordenboek der Nederlandse taal, vols. 1–2. The Hague, 1970.


Little, W. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 3rd ed., vols. 1–2. Oxford, 1968.

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, vols. 1–2. Chicago, 1966.

Random House Dictionary of the English Language. New York, 1967.


Nykysuomen sanakirja, vols. 1–6. Helsinki, 1951–61.


Robert, R. Dictionnaire alphabétique et analogique de la langue française, vols. 1–7. Paris, 1972–73.

Grand Larousse de la langue française, vols. 1–7. Paris, 1971–78.


Tolkovyi slovar’ gruzinskogo iazyka, 8 vols. Tbilisi, 1950–64. (In Georgian.)


Wörterbuch der deutschen Gegenwartssprache, vols. 1–5. Berlin, 1961–74.

Modern Greek

Demetrakou. Mega lexikon tes hellenikes glosses, vols. 1–9. Athens, 1936–50. Second ed.: 1950–53.


Manaka hindi kosh, 5 vols. Allahabad, 1963–66.

Hindi shabda sagar, 11 vols. Varanasi, 1965—.(As of l974, 10 vols.)


A magyar nyelv értelmezö szótára, vols. 1–7. Budapest, 1959–62.


Íslenzk orōabók handa skólum og almenningi. Reykjavik, 1963.


Poerwadarminta, W. J. S. Kamus Umum Bahasa Indonesia, 2 vols. Jakarta, 1952.

Poerwadarminta, W. J. S. Kamus Umum Bahasa Indonesia, 2 vols. Jakarta, 1971–72.


Battaglia, S. Grande dizionario della lingua italiana, vols. 1–8. Turin, 1961–73—.

Devoto, G., and G. C. Oli. Vocabolario illustrato della lingua italiana, vols. 1–2. Milan, 1967.


Simmura, I. Kojien, 2nd ed. Tokyo, 1973.

Simmeikai kokugo dziten. Tokyo, 1973.


Qazaq tĭlĭnĭn tusĭndĭrme sözdígĭ, vols. 1–2. Alma-Ata, 1959–62.


Chosonmal sachtong, vols. 1–6. Pyongyang, 1960–62.


Mílenbahs, K. Latviešu valodas vārdnī ca, vols. 1–4. Riga, 1923–32.


Lietuvių kalbos žodynas, vols. 1–9. Vilnius, 1941–73.


Kamus Dewan. Kuala Lumpur, 1972.


Tsevel, la. Mongol Khelnii tovg tailbar tol’. Ulan Bator, 1966.


Knudsen, T. Norsk riksmålsordbok, vols. 1–2. Oslo, 1937–57.

Norsk ordbok: Ordbok over det norske folkemålet og det nynorske skriftmålet. Oslo, 1950—.


Pashto qamus, 2 vols. Kabul, 1952–55.


Moin, M. Farhange-efarsi, vols. 1–6. Tehran, 1963–73.

Dihkhuda, A. A. Logatname-ie Dehkhoda. Tehran, 1946—. (As of 1974, 195 fascs.)


Słownik języka polskiego, vols. 1–11. Warsaw, 1958–69.


Dicionário geral luso brasileiro da lingua portugesa, vols. 1–15-. Lisbon-Rio de Janeiro, 1962—.


Dicziunari rumantsch grischun, vols. 1—. Published by La Società Retorumantscha. Chur, 1938—. (As of 1966, A-C.)


Dicţionarul limbii romîne literare contemporane, vols. 1–4. Bucharest, 1955–57.

Dicţionarul limbii române, vols. 1–7. Bucharest, 1913–49. New series: 1965–72. (To P.)


Rečnik srpskohrvatskoga knjizhevnog jezika, vols. 1—. Novy Sad-Zagreb, 1967—. (As of 1973,5 vols., to S.)


Slovník slovenského jazyka, vols. 1–6. Bratislava, 1959–68.


Slovar slovenskega knjižnega jezika, vol. 1 (A-H). Ljubljana, 1970—.


Diccionario de la lengua española, 19th ed. Madrid, 1970.

Alonso, M. Enciclopedia del idioma: Diccionario histórico y moderno de la lengua española, vols. 1–3. Madrid, 1958.


Ordbok öfver svenska språket, vols. 1–26. Lund, 1898–1974.

Östergren, O. Nusvensk ordbok, vols. 1–10. Stockholm, 1919–72.


Farkhangi zaboni tojiki, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1969.


Velidi, Dzh. Tatar telenets tuly suzlege. Kazan, 1927—. (Not completed.)


Ağakai, M. A. Türkçe sözlük. Ankara, 1974.

Tuğlaci, P. Okeanus, vols. 1–3. Istanbul, 1971–74.


Türkmen dilininin sözlügi. Ashkhabad, 1962.


Slovnyk ukrains’koi movy, vols. 1–10. Kiev, 1970—. (As of 1975, 6 vols., to P).


Majid, A. Jamiul lughat, 4 vols. Lahore, 1935.

Firoz al-lughat. Karachi [no date].


Tu dien tieng Viet. Hanoi, 1967.


Semenov, N. A. Tolkovye slovari russkogo iazyka. Kiev, 1969.
Voprosy uchebnoi leksikografii. Moscow, 1969.
Berkov, V. P. Voprosy dvuiazychnoi leksikografii. Leningrad, 1973.
Denisov, P. N. Ocherki po russkoi leksikologii i uchebnoi leksikografii. Moscow, 1974.
Slovari, izdannye v SSSR: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’, 1918–1962. Moscow, 1966.
Zaunmüller, W. Bibliographisches Handbuch der Sprachwörterbücher: Ein internazionales Verzeichnis von 5600 Wörterbüchern der Jahre 1460–1958 für mehr als 500Sprachen und Dialekte. Stuttgart, 1958.
Bibliografia słowników, 1945–1972 [vols. 1–6]. Warsaw, 1965–74.
Whittacker, K. Dictionaries. London, 1966.
Matoré, G. Histoire des dictionnaires français. Paris, 1968.
Quémada, B. Les Dictionnaires du français moderne. Paris, 1968.
Wahrig, G. Neue Wege in der Wörterbücharbeit. Hamburg, 1967.
“La Lexicographic” Langages, 1970, no. 19.
Slovo a slovník. Bratislava, 1973.
See also references under LEXICOGRAPHY.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(computer science)
A table establishing the correspondence between specific words and their code representations.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.






Free On-line Dictionary of Computing.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)
References in periodicals archive ?
We refer to this critical activity as epistemological analysis because our focus is on the validity and limits of knowledge (see definition of "epistemology" in Webster's 9th Collegiate Dictonary).
James Bradshaw is terrific as tubby Ian who lost his virginity in a sad fashion, and now controls his suffering by learning the dictonary (he's on P; 'for pathetic, panic, paralyzed').
3 For 9,400 generally used morphemes, refer to The Dictonary of Generally-used Morphemes in Modern Chinese (1987) published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, Beijing, China.
They are My Favorite Monster, Firefighter, Macmillan Dictonary for Children.