Most people have used a dictionary of some sort. All dictionaries are not created equal. The dictionary you should choose depends on your needs. Here are some things to consider before you choose a dictionary.
1. Know what general sort of dictionary you need. Here are the basics you should decide before you begin looking:
- Languages. Are you looking for a dictionary in English, with definitions in English? Are you looking for a translating dictionary, a book that will allow you to look up words in your language and find words in another language?
- Size. For print dictionaries, will you be carrying this dictionary with you in a pocket, purse, or briefcase or will it remain on a desk or bookshelf somewhere?
- Scope. Do you want a general dictionary? Do you want a dictionary that includes technical terms or terms relating to a particular field or specialty? Some dictionaries specialize in words pertaining to certain subjects, such as music or law.
- Binding. Do you care if your dictionary is hardcover or paperback? Do you prefer a book that will stay open by itself, or do you mind holding the pages open while you use it?
- Print or digital format. Printed dictionaries require no electricity to operate. On the other hand, they are updated only by purchasing a new one.
- Try a side-by-side comparison of online dictionaries. Go to a dictionary aggregator such as Onelook.com and type in a few sample words. You may want to follow the links to the originating dictionaries to see the entire entry.
- The number of words, while a rough indication of the scope, is not always important in choosing a dictionary. A pocket dictionary for travel may be carefully edited to include fewer words, but they may be chosen to be of greatest use to travelers.
- With dual language dictionaries, if possible, ask someone with experience in both languages for a few terms that are difficult to translate because there is no word that matches the meaning in the other language. Some dictionaries simply omit these terms, others give an incorrect or incomplete translation, and others give an explanation. For example, lašiniai [la shi nay'] in Lithuanian refers to pork fat, regardless of the size piece or whether it is cooked, cured, or raw. It can also refer to a person’s ‘spare tire’. These terms are often part of the oldest language and can be a real handicap in understanding everyday texts. Lašiniai, for example, can appear on restaurant menus. So how they are handled is important.
Things You’ll Need
- Book retailer (store or online)
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