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)

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
Recent Examples on the Web For example, a dream dictionary may suggest a dog in a dream means loyalty. David G. Allan, CNN, 4 Aug. 2022 Popular words used in Black culture for centuries are making their way into Oxford’s newest dictionary. Claretta Bellamy, NBC News, 22 July 2022 The Oxford English Dictionary (OED)—the largest dictionary of the English language—has added 200 new and revised entries from East African English, which are primarily used in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Priya Sippy, Quartz, 19 July 2022 In the United States and the United Kingdom, its equivalent, they, was already being used in some media before 2019, when it was finally added to the Merriam-Webster American English dictionary. Patricia Moreno, Vogue, 9 June 2022 In his forties, Collodi contributed to an important Italian dictionary, one of the many efforts to get Italians to agree on a single standard language rather than continue speaking local dialects that people fifty miles away might not understand. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, 6 June 2022 Look up ‘fungible’ in the dictionary and get back to me. Michael Lynch, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 And, of course, the Democrats are facing a wipeout in November that will force everyone to rush to the dictionary to search for a weather term stronger than tsunami. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 11 Apr. 2022 Our default on the matter is our base dictionary, Webster’s New World College 5th, but the Journal stylebook has exceptions. WSJ, 5 Apr. 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.

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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The first known use of dictionary was in 1526

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Last Updated

11 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dictionary. Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for dictionary


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

More from Merriam-Webster on dictionary

Nglish: Translation of dictionary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dictionary for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about dictionary


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