A dictionary is a collection of most commonly used words with their spellings and definitions. Dictionaries may also show you how to say or pronounce a word, tell how many syllables a word has, or what part of speech a word is.

The most common type of dictionary we use 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 a language.

How is a dictionary organized?
The words in a dictionary will be in alphabetical order.

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-Webster, Dictionary.com, and Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

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.

Screenshot of the dictionary entry for the word integrity

How do I use a dictionary?
You need some idea of how a word is spelled in order to find it in the dictionary. If you can guess at the first few letters, you can look up the word alphabetically in print or bring up a list of suggestions in an online dictionary.

How do I use guide words in dictionaries?
Guide words can help you find the word you want more quickly in a print dictionary. The guide word on the left will be the first word on the page and the guide word on the right tells you the last word on the page. This lets you know that any words that are alphabetically between those two guide words will be included on this page.

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