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Definition of DICTIONARY
: a reference source in print or electronic form containing words usually alphabetically arranged along with information about their forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, meanings, and syntactical and idiomatic uses
: a reference book listing alphabetically terms or names important to a particular subject or activity along with discussion of their meanings and applications
: a reference book listing alphabetically the words of one language and showing their meanings or translations in another language
: a computerized list (as of items of data or words) used for reference (as for information retrieval or word processing)
<try to develop the habit of going to the dictionary whenever you encounter an unfamiliar word>
Famed for his dictionary, “Rambler” essays and The Lives of the English Poets, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) remains one of the most-quoted and carefully observed authors who ever lived. —Publishers Weekly, 21 July 2008
I still read relatively slowly in Yiddish, with frequent recourse to a dictionary, and my first year of graduate school found me at my desk till two or three in the morning every night … —Aaron Lansky, Outwitting History, 2004
Reference work that lists words, usually in alphabetical order, and gives their meanings and often other information such as pronunciations, etymologies, and variant spellings. The earliest dictionaries, such as those created by Greeks of the 1st century AD, emphasized changes that had occurred in the meanings of words over time. The close juxtaposition of languages in Europe led to the appearance, from the early Middle Ages on, of many bilingual and multilingual dictionaries. The movement to produce an English dictionary was partly prompted by a desire for wider literacy, so that common people could read Scripture, and partly by a frustration that no regularity in spelling existed in the language. The first purely English dictionary was Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabetical (1604), treating some 3,000 words. In 1746–47 Samuel Johnson undertook the most ambitious English dictionary to that time, a list of 43,500 words. Noah Webster's dictionary of Americanisms in the early 19th century sprang from a recognition of the changes and variations within language. The immense Oxford English Dictionary was begun in the late 19th century. Today there are various levels of dictionaries, general-purpose dictionaries being most common. Modern lexicographers (dictionary makers) describe current and past language but rarely prescribe its use.