dic·​tio·​nary | \ ˈdik-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce dictionary (audio) , -ˌne-rē \
plural dictionaries

Definition of dictionary

1 : a reference source in print or electronic form containing words usually alphabetically arranged along with information about their forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, meanings, and syntactic and idiomatic uses
2 : a reference book listing alphabetically terms or names important to a particular subject or activity along with discussion of their meanings and applications
3 : a reference book listing alphabetically the words of one language and showing their meanings or translations in another language
4 : a computerized list (as of items of data or words) used for reference (as for information retrieval or word processing)

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Synonyms for dictionary


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Examples of dictionary in a Sentence

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 Look it up in the dictionary. try to develop the habit of going to the dictionary whenever you encounter an unfamiliar word
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Recent Examples on the Web The forbidden English dictionary, a gift from her father, was ash. Robert Clark, National Geographic, "‘I felt scared because I lost my emotions for a time.’," 6 May 2020 To press, find a thick heavy book, like a dictionary, and open to the middle. Lindsey Vickers, USA TODAY, "28 reasons to still be excited that it's spring," 3 Apr. 2020 The news is a whirl of unfamiliar words, and so one place people are turning for a little clarity and comfort is the dictionary. Katy Steinmetz, Time, "Coronavirus: A Glossary of Terms to Help You Understand the Unfolding Crisis," 9 Mar. 2020 Jay Collert of Friendship, Md., once saw a guy on the Beltway driving a big delivery truck — the kind with an extra-large steering wheel — flipping through what appeared to be a library-size unabridged dictionary. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Driving a car is challenging enough. Why would you do something else, too?," 7 Feb. 2018 The entire 27-volume Funk & Wagnalls set — along with the free two-volume dictionary, another sweetener dreamed up by Mr. Moser — cost a little more than $100. Matt Phillips, New York Times, "Stanley Moser, Virtuoso Encyclopedia Marketer, Dies at 88," 6 May 2020 Her second-grade daughter had to build a table that would support a dictionary using only printer paper, cardboard and duct tape. Anchorage Daily News, "“I just can’t do this.” Harried parents forgo home school," 26 Apr. 2020 Thoughtful use of highlighting, or animating relevant parts of picture or text, and interactive features including dictionaries, word readouts or learning games can help with word learning and reading. Ashwini Lakshmanan, The Conversation, "Screen time that supports new parents and young kids can enhance family health," 27 Mar. 2020 Until recently, most dictionaries listed only the first pronunciation. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Semantic Drift," 22 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dictionary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dictionary

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dictionary

borrowed from Medieval Latin dictiōnārium, name for an alphabetized guide to the Vulgate, earlier dictiōnārius, name for a Latin textbook in which words are grouped by topic (apparently coined by its author, the 13th-century English-born university teacher John of Garland), from Latin dictiōn-, dictiō "speech, (in grammar) word, expression" + -ārius, -ārium -ary entry 1 — more at diction

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Time Traveler for dictionary

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The first known use of dictionary was in 1526

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Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictionary. Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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How to pronounce dictionary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dictionary

: a reference book that contains words listed in alphabetical order and that gives information about the words' meanings, forms, pronunciations, etc.
: a reference book that lists in alphabetical order the words of one language and shows their meanings or translations in a different language
: a reference book that lists in alphabetical order words that relate to a particular subject along with their definitions and uses


dic·​tio·​nary | \ ˈdik-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce dictionary (audio) \
plural dictionaries

Kids Definition of dictionary

1 : a book giving the meaning and usually the pronunciation of words listed in alphabetical order
2 : a reference book explaining words of a particular subject listed in alphabetical order a medical dictionary
3 : a book listing words of one language in alphabetical order with definitions in another language

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