Dictionaries

If you only use dictionaries and thesauruses for their most basic puropses, they're pretty boring. A dictionary defines words you don't know, and a thesaurus suggests words similar in meaning or connotation so you don't have to keep using the same ones. But leaving it at that is like saying Mt. Everest is pretty big, or that the sun is quite warm.

Dictionaries and thesauruses teach us about words. They show us how to use words properly, they open new realms of knowledge to us (what field of study doesn't have its own jargon?), they help us avoid saying the wrong thing and assist us in understanding what other people are saying.

A good dictionary doesn't just include every possible definition of any given word, it tells you what part of speech that word is, how it can be used in a sentence, how it has been used by past authors, how to pronounce it, and even what language the word derived from. How are all these useful? They provide context, and the less context a word has, the less meaning it has.

One reason communication seems to have deteriorated over the last several years is that literacy and the desire for a large and flexible vocabulary have been replaced by merely functional and highly truncated forms of expression. Kids no longer call their parents on the phone to tell them they'll be late, they text "b l8. @ j's. k?" and expect that to suffice. Unfortunately, because they don't understand the signficance of words themselves, most parents let that slide, and eventually communicate the same way.

Why isn't that okay? Why don't we all just limit our speech as much as possible and strain out everything "unnecessary"? The most obvious answer is that eventually language will be so abbreviated as to communicate nothing. But the deeper answer is more fundamental and more important: while we might be able to express basic needs and facts with shortened, out-of-context words, we can't communicate ideas, feelings, or real meaning that way.

Part of the reason people don't seem to mind things moving in this direction is that ideas are no longer thought to be important, at least, not as important as filling appetites. As Christians, we rebel against this concept: God has revealed Himself to us through His Word, which contains ideas and propositional statements for us to accept and understand. To understand them, we must understand language, which is also a creation and blessing of God.

Tools like the ones you'll find here help ensure we'll never be reduced to mere grunts and coughs. A word of wisdom for young thesaurus users: make sure you understand what your replacement word means, and don't just pick entries at random to mix things up. But do use these resources, and learn to love the words God has given us and to use them to communicate His glory and His majesty to everyone.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

Did you find this review helpful?
41 Items found Print
Alphabet Makers
by Hyatt Moore
from Wycliffe Bible Translators
for 8th-Adult
in History of Books & Language (Location: HISV-BOOK)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
American Dictionary of the English Language
by Noah Webster
10th edition from Foundation for American Christian Education
for 7th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$49.00 (1 in stock)
American Heritage Desk Dictionary
5th edition from Houghton Mifflin
for 7th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
American Heritage Dictionary
by Houghton Mifflin Company
5th edition from Dell Publishing
for 7th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$9.99
American Heritage Picture Dictionary
by Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries
newly updated from Houghton Mifflin
for Preschool-1st grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Childcraft in Fifteen Volumes, 1961 Edition
from World Book
for 1st-6th grade
in Vintage Anthology Collections (Location: VIN-ANTH)
Childcraft in Fourteen Volumes, 1949 Edition
from World Book
for 1st-6th grade
in Vintage Anthology Collections (Location: VIN-ANTH)
Childcraft: The How and Why Library, 1972 Edition
from World Book
for 1st-6th grade
in Vintage Anthology Collections (Location: VIN-ANTH)
Childcraft: The How and Why Library, 1980 Edition
from World Book
for 1st-6th grade
in Vintage Anthology Collections (Location: VIN-ANTH)
$40.00 (1 in stock)
Children's Dictionary
Wordsmyth Reference Series
from American Education Publishing
for 2nd-8th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$13.00 (1 in stock)
Complete Rhyming Dictionary
from Dell Publishing
for 1st-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$8.99
Consolidated Wagster's Unexpurgated Dictionary of Humor and Wit
from Peter Pauper Press
for 8th-Adult
in Clearance: General Interest (Location: ZCLE-GEN)
$2.00 (1 in stock)
DK Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary
from DK Publishing
for 2nd-4th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$29.99
King Alfred's English
by Laurie J. White
from Shorter Word Press
for 7th-12th grade
in History of Books & Language (Location: HISV-BOOK)
$15.60
Little Golden Picture Dictionary
by Marie de John
1st edition from Golden Books
for 1st-2nd grade
in Little Golden Books (Location: PIC-GOLD)
$1.50 (1 in stock)
Little Golden Picture Dictionary
by Nancy Fielding Hulick, illustrated by Tibor Gergely
from Golden Books
for 1st-2nd grade
in Little Golden Books (Location: PIC-GOLD)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Macmillan Visual Dictionary
1st edition from Macmillan
for 3rd-9th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Meaning of Everything
by Simon Winchester
Reprint from Oxford University
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
$7.00 (1 in stock)
Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary
from DK Children
for 2nd-4th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
Merriam-Webster Dictionary
7th edition from Merriam-Webster
for 9th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$7.50
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
11th edition from Merriam-Webster
for 9th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$22.95
Merriam-Webster's Elementary Dictionary
Updated & Expanded from Merriam-Webster
for 3rd-5th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$9.00 (1 in stock)
Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary
by Merriam-Webster
2nd edition from Merriam-Webster
for 9th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$15.95
Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary (old)
by Merriam-Webster
from Merriam-Webster
for 9th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$5.00 (2 in stock)
My First Picture Dictionary
by Katherine Howard
from Random House
for Preschool-2nd grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$1.50 (3 in stock)
My Very First Word Book
by Angela Wilkes
from DK Publishing
for Preschool-2nd grade
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary - CD-ROM
by Noah Webster
from Foundation for American Christian Education
for 9th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
Oxford-Duden Pictorial Spanish and English Dictionary
by Manuel Alvar Ezquerra and John Pheby; editors
from Clarendon Press
for 7th-Adult
in Spanish Resources (Location: FL-SPARE)
$10.00 (1 in stock)
Professor and the Madman
by Simon Winchester
from Harper Perennial
for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)
Rainbow Dictionary
by Wendell W. Wright, assisted by Helene Laird, illustrated by Joseph Low
from World Publishing Company
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in Vintage Nonfiction (Location: VIN-NFIC)
$16.00 (1 in stock)
Reader's Digest Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary 2 Volume Set
from Reader's Digest
for 6th-Adult
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$15.00 (1 in stock)
Right Word
by Jen Bryant
from Eerdmans
for 1st-4th grade
2015 Caldecott Honor Book, Sibert Medal
in Biographies (Location: BIO)
$18.99
Scholastic Children's Dictionary
from Scholastic Inc.
for 1st-5th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$8.00 (2 in stock)
Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms
by Marvin Terban
from Scholastic Inc.
for 4th-9th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$6.50 (1 in stock)
Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary
by Sue Young
from Scholastic Inc.
for 4th-6th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$3.00 (2 in stock)
Seeker of Knowledge
by James Rumford
from Sandpiper Books
for Preschool-2nd grade
in Ancient Egypt (Location: HISW-ANEG)
$7.99
Supplement One The American Language
by H.L. Mencken
1962 Printing from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
for Adult
in Vintage Nonfiction (Location: VIN-NFIC)
$15.00 (1 in stock)
Thorndike-Barnhart Children's Dictionary
by Barnhart Thorndike
from Addison Wesley
for 1st-6th grade
in Dictionaries (Location: REF-DIC)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Uncovering the Logic of English
by Denise Eide
2nd Edition from Logic of English, Inc.
for 9th-Adult
in Logic of English (Location: PHO-LOE)
$14.99
University of Chicago Spanish-English Dictionary
6th edition
for 5th-12th grade
in Spanish Resources (Location: FL-SPARE)
$7.50 (1 in stock)
Words You Should Know
by David Olsen
from Adams Media Corp.
for 6th-10th grade
in Writing Reference (Location: REF-WRI)