A dictionary is a collection of words in a language often arranged alphabetically. A dictionary gives the usage information, definition, pronunciation, phonetics and other information about each word it lists. Dictionaries are essential tools for learning a new language.
How are words arranged in a dictionary?
Some words may have multiple meanings. A good dictionary will list almost all of these separate meanings. In most languages words can appear in many different forms due to inflections. In dictionaries the word that appears as the headword is the one with no inflections. For example, the word take has five inflected forms: take, takes, took, taken and taking. In a dictionary the word that appears as the headword is take.
There are different kinds of dictionaries. A bilingual or translation dictionary, for example, is used to translate words or phrases from one language to another.
Most dictionaries are in the form of printed books. There are also online dictionaries and dictionary software that runs on PDAs and computers.
Dictionaries have been around for quite sometime. The first English alphabetical dictionary was probably ‘A Table Alphabeticall’ published in 1604. It was written by Robert Cawdrey, an English schoolteacher. Samuel Johnson’s ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’ was published in 1755. It was the most reliable English dictionary available at that time. Johnson is still judged as the man who created the world’s first modern dictionary, but it is wrong to assume that it was Samuel Johnson who wrote the first English dictionary.
Johnson’s dictionary remained the standard for well over 150 years, until the Oxford university Press (OUP) started publishing the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) from 1884. This project took over 50 years to complete and OUP finally managed to publish the complete OED in twelve volumes in 1928. The OED continues to remain the most comprehensive and trusted English dictionary. A dedicated team of Editors prepare revisions and updates to this dictionary every three months. One of the major contributors to OED was William Chester Minor, an ex-army surgeon.