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English Dictionaries, Thesauruses and Usage Guides –

Updated on July 24, 2010

A dictionary is always a great asset for a writer and, for that matter, for any practitioner of a language. Despite the availability of a number of online dictionaries, I have accumulated a decent collection of them over the years. Each has served me well, with its unique approach towards helping one learn about and be inspired by words. And, of course, a good thesaurus will be extremely useful in exploring and expanding one’s world of words.

My Collection

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

This is one of the oldest in my collection. It will satisfy the needs of any professional and has useful supplements on Biographical Names and Geographical Names, among others.

What is special about this dictionary is the way in which it analyses the synonyms of a particular word, thereby helping the user to select the word that is right for the occasion. For example, an entry goes as follows:

‘Assert, declare, affirm, protest, avow mean to state positively usu. in anticipation of denial or objection. ASSERT implies stating confidently without need for proof or regard for evidence; DECLARE stresses open or public statement’; AFFIRM implies conviction based on evidence, experience, or faith; PROTEST emphasizes affirming in the face of denial or doubt; AVOW stresses frank declaration and acknowledgment of personal responsibility for what is declared.’

(Copyright © 1987 by Merriam-Webster Inc.)

Cambridge International Dictionary of English

On the cover, it says: Guides you to the meaning, and it keeps its promise. Right through, you will find plenty of illustrative sentences that help you understand the meaning and usage of a word very clearly.

Pictures, Language Portraits and False Friends are sections that provide interesting information.

The American Heritage College Dictionary

It is quite comprehensive, and its usage notes, Indo-European Roots Appendix, and Charts and Tables make it special.

Collins Cobuild Dictionary

This is a wonderful dictionary, especially for the beginner, for it defines every word so clearly with examples that it aids quick and easy comprehension.

The Chambers Dictionary

If you are a big one for crossword puzzles, then this is a great one to possess. It has a huge collection of entries and, I guess, is a favourite with many readers and writers of the English language.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

This has served me well, though I have always wanted to own the Big Oxford or at least the Shorter Oxford, both of which are expensive.

Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus

A very handy volume, this facilitates an instant study and exploration of words and their synonyms.

Oxford Thesaurus

This cute little thing packs, as it says, 150,000 synonyms - such wealth within easy grasp.

Hutchinson Dictionary of Difficult Words

If you dig words like ‘antibrachial’, ‘biduous’, ‘kerygmatic’, ‘morigerous’ and similar toughies, you will love this dictionary.

Random House Word Menu

True to what it says on its cover, it is a ‘merging of Dictionary, Thesaurus, Treasury of Glossaries, Reverse Dictionary, and Almanac – Fully Indexed’. It has to be used for one to realize its immense value.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage

Every serious user of the language simply must have this. Each entry is a gem. You will most likely find answers for many perplexing questions about usage.

Having all these delightful volumes has never stopped me from looking for new ones and newer editions whenever I visit a book-shop. I have at least one of them in the living room, my study and bedroom. When I curl up with a nice book, one of these beacons is always by my side. As a telescope is to the astronomer and a map to the traveller, so is the dictionary to the reader and the writer.


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    • E M Smith profile image

      E M Smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      We have had a Collins dictionary and Thesaurus for yewars. Handy to have

    • vaidy19 profile image

      vaidy19 7 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi Shalini,

      Thanks. Owning them makes me feel so rich!


    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      That's a great list, Vaidy - and you've captured each one's advantage so well!