Which Dictionary & Thesaurus?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I gained a love of words from reading voraciously at a young age. Back in the pre-internet age, in the 1960s, finding out definitions of words sometimes had to wait until I visited the public library.

I quickly realised that the dictionary my family owned was rather basic, for looking up the meaning of 'revolver' it said 'a kind of pistol' and the definition of 'pistol' was 'a kind of revolver.' This is unhelpful, and the second definition is also technically inaccurate. I tried compiling my own dictionary, at about the age of 8, scrawling out some 50 pages in pencil and only getting to the middle of 'B' before giving up!

In the recently televised documentary about Philip Pullman, he stated that he likes using Chambers Dictionary, for its quirky definitions of words. For instance, strictly speaking, 'feisty' means 'farty', which made me smile, for a lot of female lonely hearts on dating agencies describe themselves as feisty! :eek:

When in full flow while writing, I use the Artha online thesaurus app.

I also turn to hard copies of the Oxford Pocket School Dictionary, The Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors, the two volume Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Collins Gem Thesaurus (pocket-sized) and a 1982 edition of Roget's Thesaurus. I need to acquire a modern dictionary, as it's noticeable how many words are missing from my collection.

I'll buy a copy of Pullman's favourite dictionary, as I could do with a laugh. Being something of a cynic, I should also get Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, as it's still humorous 112 years after it was originally published.

The Devil's Dictionary - Wikipedia

Here's what I mean:

Egotist (n.) A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Marriage (n.) A household consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Positive (a.) Mistaken at the top of one's voice.

Which dictionaries and thesauri do you use?

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Can we be friends?

Hello there!