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interesting sites relating to English language dictionaries

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English dictionaries fall into several categories. To start with, there is the division between English English, and American English. This extends to more than simple spelling rules: some words have different meanings on either side of the Atlantic. You might look at BritSpeak or American English to British English Dictionary.

The major English language dictionary is The Oxford English Dictionary, which is available online but only on annual subscription which costs much the same as a one-off purchase of the CD-ROM version. The OED is particularly strong on etymology (the derivation of words) and gives copious examples of their usage. Don't expect it to include modern technical jargon, though. For an example of its content, visit the OED Word of the Day site.

The Encarta World English Dictionary (North American Edition) provides not only definitions, but also sound files demonstrating American pronunciation of the word searched for. If you don't know the exact spelling and get it wrong, the dictionary provides possible alternatives, in the manner of a spell checker.

For another strong American English dictionary, try Webster's. There's also the Newbury House Online Dictionary, which also has - or will have - photographs available to illustrate specific words. Many other dictionary sources are available.

A site of considerable interest to the academic study of English is The British National Corpus (BNC), a one hundred million word body of British English, both spoken and written. The BNC Online service allows you to search this corpus in a variety of ways and download citations from the corpus." There's a free 20 day trial available; the full service costs 60 pounds sterling for a 2-year licence. This is an excellent resource for researchers on the English language, gives numerous examples of usage for individual words, and can provide guidance on appropriate use of colloquial phrases - but it's not suitable for the average user.

Other specialist services include A Rhyming Dictionary for Poetry and Songwriting and The Online Slang Dictionary.

Allwords (English Dictionary with Multi-lingual search). This finds words in the American Heritage Dictionary and translates into Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Search on partial words, where the same word has multiple meanings it provides a definition and translation for each one. Useful.

Dictionary.com "Ask Dr Dictionary" is an interesting set of articles about general word usage (eg it's v. its) but is not very good at answering specific questions (eg what is the plural of ?).

OneLook Dictionaries claims to index more than 3 million words in about 600 dictionaries (including translating dictionaries); searching for a word generates a link to the appropriate dictionary, if one is found. Flexible search parameters, and search for acronyms too.

Voycabulary provides any web page with instant Dictionary or Thesaurus lookups. After typing in a web address, clicking on any word in the new page spawns a window containing a definition for the word. Effective and moderately technical; highlights words "generally or often considered vulgar". Supports: English Dictionary/Thesaurus, Medical, Acronym, Computer, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian, Hungarian, and Welsh.

The Word Detective is an online version of a newspaper column about words. Articles on "hundreds of words and phrases", fascinating information on usage. Ask questions about word use or meaning - but don't expect an immediate response: "The Word Detective receives hundreds of questions every week, so obviously we can't promise to answer every question we receive. If your question is answered, it will appear first in The Word Detective newspaper column and then be posted on this web page. We cannot answer questions via e-mail."

Bartlett's Book of Familiar Quotations Discusses and where possible cites the sources of many familiar quotations.

iLoveLanguages A page devoted to bringing together information about the languages of the world. The language resources listed here come from all around the world, and range from dictionaries to language tutorials to spoken samples of languages. Many languages are represented here, but many more are missing.

Wordsmyth Educational Dictionary-Thesaurus Online American English dictionary with an integrated thesaurus - contains 50,000 headwords.

WordWeb is a free downloadable (4.5 Mb) combined dictionary and thesaurus. The commercial version allows wildcard searching and provides various other facilities.

Technical English Dictionaries

A Web of On-line Dictionaries Links to speciality English dictionaries on: Advertising, Agriculture, Architecture, Art, Astronomy, Automobiles, Aviation, Biography, Biology, Botany, Business, Chemistry, Children, Collecting, Computing, Construction, Crosswords, Dance, Dentistry, Dialects, Economics, Education, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Etymology, Finance, Fishing, Games, Gastronomy, Genealogy, Geography, Geology, History, Humour, Hunting, Insurance, Internet, Investment, Law, Library, Linguistics, Literature, Mathematics, Media, Medicine, Metallurgy, Military, Multimedia, Music, Philosophy, Photography, Physics, Politics, Printing, Professions, Psychology, Railroads, Real Estate, Recreation, Religion, Retailing, Rhetoric, Sailing, Shipping, Science, Slang, Sociology, Space, Sports, Telecom, Theatre, Tools, Textiles, and Travel.

The BioTech Life Science Dictionary: "A free, completely searchable dictionary of over 3700 terms relating to the life sciences and medicine, and we're adding new terms all the time. The vast majority of our words aren't the kind of thing you'll find in Webster's."

Search the Dictionary of Units A summary of the units of measurement in use around the world today. Definitions, standards and conversion factors.

The Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing (FOLDOC), is a searchable dictionary of acronyms, jargon, programming languages, tools, architecture, operating systems, networking, theory, conventions, standards, mathematics, telecomms, electronics, institutions, companies, projects, products, history, in fact anything to do with computing.

Acronym Dictionaries. What on earth does that TLA (three letter acronym) stand for?

Acronym Finder is a large database of acronyms related to computers, the USA government, technology, telecommunications and general matters while Acronyms is another. World Wide Web Acronyms is an database to which users can add definitions. Indiana University Science Libraries is another general database for acronyms, which, in common with Chemical Compounds contains acronyms of the names of chemical compounds. These are useful places to look up the full name of a chemical when that paper simply expects you to know it.

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