A dictionary is a book that contains an alphabetical list of words and what they mean (definitions).

Dictionaries may also show you how to say or pronounce a word, how to use it in a sentence, what part of speech a word is, and sometimes offer synonyms or antonyms.

The most common type is an abridged dictionary. It includes the words we use most frequently when we talk and read. An unabridged dictionary lists nearly all the words in one language. 

When do I use a dictionary?

Use a dictionary when you need the definition of a word, the spelling of a word, the pronunciation, or the syllabication. It may also give you the origin of a word, a sample of how to use the word in a sentence, or other information about the word.


Where do I find a dictionary?

Dictionaries can be in print, online, or both. Print dictionaries may be found in the reference or nonfiction shelves in the 030 with general works or in the 400s with books on language. A few trusted online dictionaries are Merriam-WebsterDictionary.com, and Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

How is a dictionary organized?

The words in a dictionary are in alphabetical order.

How do I use a print dictionary?

You need some idea of how a word is spelled in order to find it in a dictionary. If you can guess at the first few letters, you can look up the word alphabetically.

Guide words can help you find the word you want more quickly. The guide word on the top of the left page shows you what the first word on the page is, and the guide word on the top of the right page shows you the last word on that page. This lets you know that any words that are alphabetically between those guide words will be included on those two pages.


How do I use an online dictionary?

Enter the word you are looking for into the search box at the top of the page. If you do not know how to spell the word, guess, and the dictionary will bring up a list of suggestions. Click on the word you want to know more about. 

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