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What brand of dictionary do you use? Book, or online?

I've been using Chambers for the last 20 years or so because it has a lot of archaic, obsolete, Shakespearean and dialect words, plus good etymologies. I've had the same one for so long now that I find I can open it and be within a few pages of the word I'm looking for (without a thumb index).

It's often faster to look for a word online, especially if I'm writing anyway, but there's a ritual to the book that I like, even if it does weigh about two kilos. If I really want to get into the etymology (handy when writing historical fiction) I'll use the OED online.

I've never been tempted to buy a new dictionary because most of the "new words" they add ("bromance", etc) are prevalent in the culture anyway and will probably go out of circulation or become cliches quite quickly. They're basically just memes. Urbandictionay.com can answer any truly arcane ephemera. I'd rather use a word that was coined 200 years ago and which hasn't been seen since Dickens. Much more fun.


  • I had an enormous dictionary growing up, almost too big for my tiny hands. I loved looking through it, turning the delicate pages and finding out new words. It was one of the very few books in my house. I still have it, plus many other dictionaries, but I always look online now as I am already at the computer when I am writing.
  • LizLiz
    edited September 2019
    I love dictionaries. I have a two volume Oxford, but only use Chambers, like you, for day to day.

    I use a Harper Collins Roget's thesaurus as it is by far and away the best. They've stopped printing it much to my disgust so I have bought two old hardback copies just in case mine falls apart. Which it is about to do. It is amazingly good. Billions of times better than any other I have ever found and I have them all. 

    I have a dictionary of archaic words, and a dictionary of foreign phrases and classical quotations in French, Latin, Greek Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese which has been surprisingly useful. i have several quotation dictionaries which are always useful. I have a reverse dictionary, two actually, about 10 rhyming dictionaries of various sorts and the usual Brewer's Phrase and Fable. I also have a dictionary of colloquial idioms, of the Bible, Lands and People, lots of forename dictionaries and surname dictionaries, and really quite a lot more, too numerous to list.

    They are all in my research book case next to my desk. 
  • I have various dictionaries, modern and old. 
  • LIZ - what's the archaic word dictionary? Is it still available/in print?
  • James Orchard Halliwell, Bracken books, London. No year printed in it. It's very old. Have a look in Oxfam shops, it's the sort of thing you find in there. 
  • Oxfam Books are where I find the best old research books.
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