[PW] dictionary reviews

John Cowan cowan at mercury.ccil.org
Fri Feb 8 13:40:52 PST 2013

Gillian Wiseman scripsit:

> Does anyone have any specific recommendations? 

Yes, I do.  For $150 you can afford to get several unabridged American
English dictionaries.  It's true that they aren't on the size and scale
of the venerable Webster's Third (1961), but they will surely serve
your patrons better.  Unfortunately, work on Webster's Fourth is just

That leaves Merriam-Webster's competitors, and fortunately their new
editions are excellent.  There is no recent Random House Webster: the
2006 is basically just a reprint of the 1993 with a new-words appendix.
So I'd get the American Heritage Dictionary, 5th edition (2011) and the
New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd edition (2010).  In my experience,
their strengths and weaknesses are complementary: AHD is unsurpassed on
etymology, whereas NOAD is supreme for coverage.

As to price, Amazon is selling the AHD for $37.50 and the NOAD
for $36.18, as Internet competition has forced the prices of
print dictionaries way down.  For a $90.17 deal, you can get
both plus the Roget's International Thesaurus, 7th edition.  See
at "Frequently Bought Together."  Even at full list price, the three
would be only $145.

Being understandable rather than obscurantist poses certain
risks, in that one's opinions are clear and therefore     | John Cowan
falsifiable in the light of new data, but it has the      | cowan at ccil.org
advantage of encouraging feedback from others.  --James A. Matisoff

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