Why Technical English

Dictionary – your best helper in mastering English words | May 24, 2009

By Galina Vitkova 

General delineation

A dictionary (according to WIKIPEDIA, the free encyclopedia) is a book or collection of alphabetically listed words in a specific language with definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, and other information. Besides, it could be a book of alphabetically listed words in one language with their equivalents in another.

In many languages, words can appear in many different forms, but only the undeclined or unconjugated form appears as the headword in most dictionaries. Even if dictionaries are most commonly published in the form of a book, some newer dictionaries, e.g. StarDict and the New Oxford American Dictionary are dictionary software running on PDAs or computers. There are also many online dictionaries accessible via the Internet.

Specialized dictionaries

A specialized dictionary focuses upon a specific subject field. Specialized dictionaries are categorized into three types:

For example, the 23-language Inter-Active Terminology for Europe is a multi-field dictionary, the American National Biography is a single-field, and the African American National Biography Project is a sub-field dictionary.

A language for specific purposes (LSP) dictionary is a dictionary that is determined to describe a variety of one or more languages used by experts within a particular subject field. At the same time LSP dictionaries are often made for semi-experts and for users who may be beginners regarding a particular subject field.

In contrast to LSP dictionaries LGP (language for generic purposes) dictionaries are made to be used by an average user. LSP dictionaries may have one or more functions. For example, they may have communicative functions such as help users to translate texts, help users to understand texts and help users to produce texts. Dictionaries may also have cognitive functions such as help users to develop knowledge in general or about a specific topic, e.g. the birthday of a famous person and the inflectional paradigm of a specific verb.

Another variant of a specialized dictionary is the glossary, an alphabetical list of defined terms in a specialised field. The simplest dictionary, a defining dictionary, provides a core glossary of the simplest meanings of the simplest concepts. From these concepts, others can be explicated and defined, in particular for those who are first learning a language. In English, the commercial defining dictionaries typically include only one or two meanings of fewer than 2000 words. With these, the rest of English, and even the 4000 most common English idioms and metaphors, can be derived.


Dictionaries for languages for which the pronunciation of words is not apparent from their spelling, such as the English language, usually afford the pronunciation, often using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For example, the definition for the word dictionary might be followed by the (American English) phonemic spelling: /ˈdɪkʃəˌnɛri/. American dictionaries, however, often use their own pronunciation spelling systems, for example dictionary [dĭkʹshə-nârʹē] while the IPA is more commonly used within the British Commonwealth countries. However others use an ad hoc notation; for example, dictionary may become [DIK-shuh-nair-ee]. Some on-line or electronic dictionaries provide recordings of words being spoken.

Types of dictionaries

Bilingual · Biographical · Conceptual · Defining · Electronic · Encyclopedic · LSP · Machine-readable · Maximizing · Medical · Minimizing · Monolingual learner’s · Multi-field · Phonetic · Picture · Reverse · Rhyming · Rime · Single-field · Specialized · Sub-field · Visual


Helpful references



  1. This article enlarged my mind about dictionaries. I am using the PC Translator dictionaries about 5 years and I see the improvement in this software such as supporting more specific words used in many contexts (unfortunatelly not much words of technical english, but when you are good in english you can easily derive the meaning) and for example application of found words in sentences…
    But not long ago my friend told me that there is also interesting dictionary (which you ment in your article) called StarDictionary. This dictionary is very good because it has voice which reads you the correct pronunciation.

    So I am pleased with this article.

    Comment by Milan Lebeda — May 26, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  2. […] Dictionary – your best helper in mastering English words […]

    Pingback by Changing the theme of this blog « Why Technical English — August 26, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  3. […] of less-known words and spelling variations, to find synonyms and more. Drop a look again at Dictionary – your best helper in mastering English words . There you will find the detailed information of possible usage of dictionaries for building your […]

    Pingback by Accumulate Your Vocabulary « Why Technical English — September 25, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

  4. You made several good points there. I did a search on the theme and found a good number of people will go along with with your blog.

    Comment by Anissa Wadley — December 17, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  5. I have fun with, cause I found exactly what I used to be looking for.

    You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.

    Comment by logitech gaming keyboard g510 price — September 14, 2013 @ 10:35 am

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