Building a Better
Curiosity to Learn New Words
Dictionaries should not be treated just as
reference books that collect dust in your library; they are
an important part of language acquisition and fluency.
If it's been a while since you've visited your dictionary,
pay it a visit. Have you made it a habit to look up
words that you don't know? Do you have the dictionary
that's right for you? Do you and your students know
how to use a dictionary?
How to use a dictionary
Each dictionary is different, with its own
set of abbreviations, notations, and symbols. Each
dictionary also has its own personalized set of resources in
the form of an introduction, preface, glossary of terms
used, and various appendices.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your dictionary so
that you understand the symbols that are listed by the
For general instructions, see
eHow's instruction page
Types of Dictionaries
- Abridged Dictionary
- An abridged dictionary does not have all of the
words of the language in it; it does not include
words that are very archaic (too old) or arcane (too
specialized). This type of dictionary is your
all-purpose dictionary and is fine for most
occasions. Has some limited information on
etymologies (roots) of words.
- Unabridged Dictionary
- The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is
probably the most famous of all unabridged
dictionaries. This type contains all words of
the language, including arcane and archaic words and
excellent information on etymology.
- Student/Children's Dictionary
- This type of dictionary has many fewer words
than a (collegiate) abridged dictionary or an
unabridged dictionary, generally has more pictures,
and includes the words that will be the most
important for gaining functional fluency of the
language. This type of dictionary can be
frustrating when a seemingly common word is not
listed and time is wasted searching for it.
Article on Editing of Christian words from student
- Etymological (Historical) Dictionary
- This type of dictionary is mostly for
linguistics and those interested in the roots of
words. This type of dictionary can be
extremely helpful in terms of making connections
between words, increasing vocabulary, and gaining a
fuller understanding of a word's definition(s).
- Slang / Dialectical Dictionary
- This type of dictionary contains slang and
colloquial words that are common in speech but may
or may not be "proper" or "actual" words. This
type of dictionary is generally more helpful to
historians of language or linguistics professors
than to natural-born speakers, but it may be helpful
to those learning another language.
- Rhyming Dictionary
- This type of dictionary contains the most common
words and the words that rhyme with them. The
dictionary may choose to only have "perfect" rhymes, or
may have both "perfect" and "imperfect rhymes. See
Wikipedia article on Rhyme for more information.
- Scrabble Dictionary
- This is a very specialized type of dictionary
that contains those words that are considered
"legal" in playing Scrabble. Though not a true
dictionary as they rarely contain definitions (as
definitions are not important in Scrabble), they can
be extremely helpful -- as a spelling resource or
just while you play your friend in Scrabble.
- Crossword Puzzle Dictionary
- Crossword puzzle dictionaries are a hybrid of a
thesaurus and an encyclopedia. They tend to
have limited definitions, or define words with
another word (similar to a thesaurus).
However, there tend to be numerous appendices with
helpful lists of historical or popular cultural
information to aid in the completion of your
crossword. These can be great for increasing
your vocabulary as well, or for memorizing trivia
tidbits to impress your friends (or as a general
More detailed information on types of dictionaries
Many of AVKO's materials can act as specialized
dictionaries for vocabulary building, reference, writing
poetry, or ensuring fluency.
Patterns of English Spelling
This book is a complete listing of all of the words in
the English language, except those that are arcane,
archaic, or scatological; the words are organized by
their word family and by the spelling rules that govern
them (CVC patterns, W and R controls, Latin and Greek
roots, etc.) This book can be used for vocabulary
building by realizing the relatedness of words, for
spelling improvement (Sequential
Spelling was developed out of this book), for
help with crosswords (if you know the end -- word family
-- you can see which words make sense), etc.
- The Reading Teacher's List
of 5,500 Basic Spelling Words
This book gives a listing of the most basic words in the
English language, those that everyone needs to know in
order to become fluent.
- Rimes and More Rhymes
This is a rhyming dictionary that can be used for
- Speech to Spelling
This book gives dictation sentences focused on being
able to transform sloppy, standard / colloquial speech
into proper writing. This skill is very important
for fluency in the language.
Here are some online dictionary resources you might find
Online dictionaries tend to allow faster access to words
and fewer definitions and idiomatic entries. However,
they often have useful resources, like ESL resources, words
of the day, newsletters, etc.
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