A brief information about Dictionary.

What is Dictionary?

The dictionary is the most widely used reference source in all types of libraries. It is one of the most common reference sources referred by the students, teachers, and researchers. The dictionary provides information about words. It is most commonly used for defining the word of language to understand the difficult words, meaning, pronunciation, etc. Development in universe of knowledge, development of new words, complexity of reading materials, development of new subjects, terms and increasing literacy level are some of the reasons for the frequent use of dictionaries.
The origin of the dictionary is not correctly known. The word ‘dictionary’ is derived from the Latin word dictionarium or dictionarius, meaning a “manual or book of words.” which in turn has its origin from the term dictio. Dicto again is derived from the Latin word dicere meaning “saying”.
Oxford English Dictionary defines dictionary as ” a book dealing with the words of a language, so as to set forth their orthography, pronunciation, significance and use. Their synonyms, derivation and history, or at least some of these words are arranged in some stated order, usually alphabetically.
Thus, the dictionary is a book which deals with the words of a language, its pronunciation, meaning, synonyms, accent, etymology, etc. It is a book of information or reference on any subject or brunch of knowledge, the items of which are arranged alphabetically.

The dictionary may be of any subject or brunch of knowledge. The items in a dictionary are arranged alphabetically. The dictionary is used generally to get linguistics information about a set of items listed in a systematic way.

Scope of Dictionary:
The dictionary defines the terms and gives their alternative or variant spellings, pronunciations, meaning, usage and sometimes their synonyms, derivation and history. It also implies any alphabetical arrangement of terms, topics, subjects or headings.
Purpose and characteristics of Dictionary:

The primary function of the dictionary is to define the meaning of the word. The earliest dictionaries were, by nature and purpose, compiled to give the meaning of the words of one language in the words of another. The first English dictionary covering words in everyday use was published in the year 1721. It give brief definitions and authority of pronunciation. The Oxford English Dictionary was ublished in 1928. It applied the historical methods to words, giving the origin, meaning and historical developments of all English words in general use and being used since the year 1150.New words are added in dictionaries time to time, and old words are excluded from them. Therefore, dictionaries record changes or additions or extensions in meaning. They list definitions and usage and include vast amount of linguistic information. In addition to providing information about meaning, pronunciation, derivation usage and syllabication, a dictionary may also give the each word its synonyms, antonyms, ample definitions and illustrative material in the forms of quotations, and sometimes even maps, plates or illustrations. Biographical information are also provided. These types of dictionaries are encyclopaedic in nature.

Difference between Encyclopaedia and Dictionary:
 The difference between the dictionary and encyclopaedia is the former is generally concerned about the meaning of the word, whereas the latter provides general information about a topic and subjects. some dictionaries are encyclopaedic in nature because they may give information about the words as well as about the topic or subject. Similarly, sometimes the term ‘encyclopaedia’ may be used in the title of the work which be nothing but a subject dictionary.

According to Kenneth Whittak, “the dividing line between dictionary and encyclopedia is particularly precarious.”

Dictionaries record changes or additions or extensions in meaning. they list definitions and usage and include a vast amount of linguistics information. Dictionaries are the general sources for current spellings of words providing the preferred and alternative spellings. They play a vital role in establishing the convention of English spelling. Dictionaries are more responsive to usage in the matter of pronunciation than the spellings.

Basically, a dictionary limits its function to words and phrases. But many modern dictionaries extend their scope beyond the basic functions, such as spelling, meaning, pronunciation, etc. most dictionaries go further by giving history or foreign terms, phrases, antonyms, synonyms, abbreviations, etc.

Besides general dictionaries, there are dictionaries which are compiled foir some special purposes. The complete scope of dictionaries con only be defined when we look into various types of dictionaries.

Alternative Names of Dictionaries:
There are a number of reference books which are similar to dictionaries. these also deal with the words but are known by the alternative names such as glossary, lexicon, thesaurus and vocabulary.


Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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