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

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web Because protection, a verb in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means: to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction. Bianca Lambert, Essence, 10 Jan. 2023 The new words reflect additions that have been made to the main Merriam-Webster dictionary since 2018, when the last Scrabble version was published. Justine Mcdaniel, Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2022 Betty looked through the dictionary for a word that would fit their new invention. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 13 Oct. 2022 This year’s pick is a reflection of the ongoing cultural conversations around gender, identity and language and how people turn to the dictionary to make sense of these complex issues, the online reference site said in Tuesday’s announcement. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, 13 Dec. 2022 The language now has a variety of grammar documents, a major dictionary, and other learning workbooks. Sabrina Torres, Rolling Stone, 19 Dec. 2022 In September, Merriam-Webster announced new words added to the dictionary, which included adorkable, MacGyver, yeet and shrinkflation. CBS News, 28 Nov. 2022 To add words to your personal dictionary—which will affect the predictions and autocorrections from your keyboard—choose Dictionary instead of Text correction on the previous screen. WIRED, 27 Nov. 2022 Hasbro and Merriam-Webster have added more than 500 new words to the official Scrabble dictionary, which consists of all of the game's playable words. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 16 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1526, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dictionary was in 1526

Dictionary Entries Near dictionary

Cite this Entry

“Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictionary. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


dic·​tio·​nary ˈdik-shə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce dictionary (audio)
plural dictionaries
: a reference source in print or electronic form giving information about the meanings, forms, pronunciations, uses, and origins of words listed in alphabetical order
: a reference book that lists in alphabetical order terms or names important to a particular subject along with explanations of their meanings and uses
a law dictionary
: a reference book giving words of one language and their meanings in another
an English-French dictionary

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