Owning a Dictionary

Boring thread alert but yeah, I keep thinking about owning a dictionary. Had a Chambers years back and then I think a second one…well no idea what’s happened to either but both would be quite out of date now.

The thing is I don’t really like Googling for definitions because you always get US sites or stuff that I don’t feel massively confident in. OTOH they cost a lot, go out of date and are big and bulky.

One of the reasons is my daughter’s getting to the age of asking what words mean and stuff so that sounds useful. Obviously an app would be even better as it can tell her how to pronounce it too buuuuut then I have to work out where to install it as she doesn’t really have one device that would do that.

Anyway, how do you all feel about dictionaries and owning them? Is this the sort of thread where only @TheBarbieMovie2023 and @hip_young_gunslinger reply, and maybe @xylo to tell me about the oldest dictionary they have in the shop which includes rude words with boring definitions of normal things?

Used to own a small dictionary and a thesaurus during high school years and university days like many others my age (I’m now 45).

Made perfect sense having them when having to write essays and especially when your vocabulary and spelling is as shit as mine.

Used to enjoy skimming through now and again at random pages and words I’d never heard of before. I’d like to buy one as a sort of coffee table book but don’t really have the space.

Buy, yeah, physically dictionaries and thesauruses/thesauri* for me beat their online versions hands down.

(*I’ve type it here without Googling the plural of thesaurus. I’ll be interested to know what the right term is.)

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Maybe it’s its own plural?

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Always had a dictionary growing up because I was encouraged to look up definitions, I used to read ahead of my age and my parents were probably sick of “what does this word mean?”. Also growing up with very long, curly hair meant getting ready in the morning was at least 20min sitting down with my hair getting brushed and plaited so my mum and I would learn new words together from the dictionary in that time, which was good for me as a kid and good for my mum whose English is great but still her third language. As a tutor I have a small dictionary that I bring with me, I believe its a skill that children need and shouldn’t Google everything, and it helps them build the skills they need to use glossaries and appendices when they’re older. They hate it though :sweat_smile:


They go out of date so quickly that CD has moved onto using Lexico, the online dictionary. It’s a bit shoddy and in 2015 got packed out with obscure non-words like ‘tableness’, so maybe a paper dictionary would be better although you’d be missing current slang.

That said, online dictionaries come with examples, audio pronunciation and better navigation so while they might be overwhelming in scale it’s probably more intuitive to a Gen Alpha kid

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This is a good one if it’s space you’re worried about.


Think it’s a really nice idea for your daughter. She’s presumably writing (as opposed to using a computer) for most her school work so it seems natural to have a dictionary at hand rather than reaching for a tablet say.

I wouldn’t worry about it being out of date. Just a matter of cost when google is free. A few years back they could have been picked up in charity shops but I’m guessing they are so rare now that probably isn’t the case.

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I still have my well-thumbed Collins Gem dictionary, although I don’t really use it anymore. I had a French and German one too, but I think I passed them on to my brother.

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Just how table are you?


It makes me want to cry every time. Some of the new words at the time of inclusion had like single-figure Google hits :grimacing:

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Reckon a Collins Gem or similar is always useful to have around the house, that’s what I had during my school years though we also had some massive antique ones at home that were fun (yes, fun) to lead through, one was so old that aeroplane was a new entry.

The daddy of course is the Oxford, one of my supervisors at uni had the whole 20+ volume set taking up a full shelf of their room and it was beautiful, remember doing a passage of Joyce with him and a character said “that takes the biscuit” and we got talking about it and he pulled out “B” and looked up the first usage of it. Just an awesome thing, a biography of the language as much as a dictionary. I’m sure there must be a condensed version. Doubt you’d use it enough to warrant an online subscription though that was very useful at uni.


One thing I enjoyed doing back during my schooldays was getting the German to English dictionary, looking up the word “Fuck” and showing other people the examples that they had included of how the word could be used, my favourite being “The engine is fucked”.


I used to do this too! We had to study German in year 8 and I spent a significant amount of time looking up words for this purpose. My favourite was po (bum)


I own a selection of dictionaries in various languages. I may post some examples later on.

One of them is from Victorian times.

Certainly. I’ll try and find some examples.

As a kid I used to have about a dozen miniature dictionaries, About 2in high and 1in thick. If I remember correctly, you had to collect vouchers that came with cereal boxes and when you had a certain number you had to send them off and get a miniature dictionary in return.

Unfortunately, they have been lost when moving house at some point.


My only contribution to this thread is to point out that good dictionaries do tell you how to pronounce the words.

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Got a massive one from the 90s. Will take a pic later.

takes me forever to work through those pronunciation things and i’m never sure if i’m doing it right



Yeah I didn’t say anyone finds it particularly useful. :smiley:


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Its particularly hard for kids too so I was meaning that bit just for my daughter. All that stuff like is the ch a k of a ch