Definition of dictionary in English:



  • 1A book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language (typically in alphabetical order) and gives their meaning, or gives the equivalent words in a different language, often also providing information about pronunciation, origin, and usage.

    ‘I'll look up ‘love’ in the dictionary’
    ‘the website gives access to an online dictionary’
    as modifier ‘the dictionary definition of ‘smile’’
    • ‘We're calling the film Incubus because we looked the word up in the dictionary and thought it sounded enigmatic.’
    • ‘And can we take a moment to thank all our readers who sent in English slang dictionaries?’
    • ‘Later reference to a dictionary illuminated the answer, but by that stage all had been revealed.’
    • ‘We had to get up at one point and look up a word in the dictionary because he didn't believe me that it existed.’
    • ‘The problem is that my French vocabulary is so poor that I end up having to look up every other word in a dictionary so it takes ages.’
    • ‘Often he would search for minutes in his Arabic-English dictionary for the exact word he wanted.’
    • ‘Mark Twain claimed never to have coined a word as far as he knew, though historical dictionaries list him as the first user of many.’
    • ‘The software uses a standard dictionary, designed by Kiran, to accomplish the task.’
    • ‘Group 1 selected equivalents for a test item on a multiple-choice test by using only the monolingual English dictionary.’
    • ‘Apart from in books and dictionaries it was a word that was hardly heard.’
    • ‘Questions as to the meaning of words in documents can rarely, if ever, be determined conclusively by reference to dictionaries.’
    • ‘On the surface, both are among the simplest of words in the French dictionary.’
    • ‘Seventy years ago, the Philological Society had resolved to publish a completely new English dictionary.’
    • ‘The latest dictionary contains new words and phrases that sum up life in the UK today.’
    • ‘There is not a word in the English dictionary to really describe this pre-meditated act of evil and wickedness.’
    • ‘‘Personhood’ is not found in many dictionaries or reference works.’
    • ‘I keep turning to the dictionary and the thesaurus, not for a reference, simply to read words at random.’
    • ‘I can remember my schoolteacher telling me to look a word up in the dictionary.’
    • ‘Taberah was reading the bilingual dictionary with rapt concentration.’
    • ‘She also started compiling a dictionary of youth slang first used by the transvestite community.’
    lexicon, wordbook, glossary, vocabulary list, vocabulary, word list, wordfinder
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A reference work on a particular subject, the items of which are typically arranged in alphabetical order.
      ‘a dictionary of quotations’
      • ‘Why he managed to justify murder and get into all the quotation dictionaries with a comment that is obvious to any cook and irrelevant to mass murder is the sort of question that politicians don't answer.’
      • ‘We could consult an American biographical dictionary, in case Burdett left a lasting mark.’
      • ‘A set of eight dictionaries, covering thesaurus, quotations, spelling, business and grammar comes for Rs.795.’
      • ‘Instead I had to settle for a couple of old-fashioned dictionaries of quotations.’
      • ‘My biographical dictionary describes Virginia Woolf as " the archetypal modernist".’
      • ‘Save for a brief quotation from a dictionary of folklore, I have so far neglected Anglo-Saxon attitudes.’
      • ‘Today, there are hundreds of language and subject dictionaries, but rarely are these wonderful works of reference available to those who need them.’
      • ‘Don't rush to make good the deficiency by consulting a dictionary of national biographies.’
      • ‘Check out the books also on the lighter side of the English language and also the dictionary of word origins.’
      • ‘In addition, many local libraries have legal dictionaries that list attorneys and their areas of expertise in and around your state.’
      • ‘For his castaway book he picks a dictionary of flora and fauna.’
      • ‘The standard dictionaries of English quotations don't have a single Indian entry.’
    2. 1.2Computing A set of words or other text strings made for use in applications such as spelling checkers.
      ‘the worm attempts to crack account passwords using a built-in dictionary’
      • ‘If it finds something in your text that isn't in the dictionary, you are offered a list of alternatives you can include instead.’
      • ‘I wanted to remove the misspelled word from the dictionary, but couldn't figure out how to do it.’
      • ‘It uses a myriad of hacking tools as well as a 340-million-word dictionary to unlock passwords.’
      • ‘There are tools on the Internet that use dictionaries of common words and phrases to crack a password.’
      • ‘The first attack is to test a dictionary of about 1,000 common passwords, things like ‘letmein’, ‘password’, ‘123456’ and so on.’


  • have swallowed a dictionary

    • informal Use long and obscure words when speaking.

      • ‘The reception was held in the Armagh City Hotel and by all accounts everybody swore that Noel had swallowed a dictionary because of all the big words he used during the speech.’
      • ‘It sounds like someone has swallowed a dictionary and is trying to justify a wishy wash outlook.’
      • ‘Hulme seems to have swallowed a dictionary and the results are arch and self-congratulatory.’


Early 16th century: from medieval Latin dictionarium (manuale) or dictionarius (liber) ‘manual or book of words’, from Latin dictio (see diction).