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Selecting a Dictionary

eLearnAid has one of the most comprehensive collections of English dictionaries on CD on the Internet. If we don't have the dictionary you're looking for, please email us and tell us what you're looking for.

English Dictionaries vary based on the vocabulary of the audience they are intended for. They range from the easy to use Children’s and beginning English as a Second Language (ESL) dictionaries, to the unabridged dictionaries. As the dictionaries get more difficult you should also get more information to help you more fully understand the word you are looking up. The ideal dictionary would communicate all the information you need to know to fully understand the usage and use very few words and symbols that you have to look up. For this reason we try to provide sample pages of most of our dictionaries so you can judge for yourself how well the dictionary communicates the meanings and how difficult it will be for you to use.

When you have turned to a dictionary for help in understanding what you have just read you do not need a difficult dictionary that uses many words you do not understand or one that is so simple, its definitions do not give you a full understanding of the word.

Some dictionaries have definitions that require a lot of work to understand (You have to look up lots of words in the definition.), yet don’t provide any more information than much simpler dictionaries. We have even seen dictionaries that frequently define words with words that they do not define. WE DON’T SELL THESE DICTIONARIES.

EXTENSIVE NOT DIFFICULT - Some people have the idea that a good dictionary has lots of data but will be difficult to understand. Actually this does not have to be the case. Even if a dictionary has lots of definitions they can still be written with a very limited vocabulary. If the definitions are really good they give a very full understanding of the word without using words you do not understand. Lots of pictures and drawing should also be included. At one time the only English dictionaries with very limited vocabularies in their definitions were children's dictionaries. But since 1948 dictionaries written for non native speakers have become more popular. These use very limited vocabularies in their definitions to help a non native speaker. The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners is currently the most extensive dictionary in this category and it also has brilliantly simple definitions. To look at these click here and look at the red dictionaries. Here is a link to four sample pages.

If you are looking for an easy-to-understand dictionary that also has derivations (word histories), then the Longman Advanced American may be for you! This uses only 2,000 words in its definitions, and you should rarely have to look up words in the definitions.

Unfortunately, only 5,000 of the words have derivations.

The CD version also pronounces the words. The CD allows instant access by installing to your hard drive as an installation option.

For more information click here.

Dictionary Questions:


From: J. K.
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2001
Subject: Question about Collins Cobuild on CD

I am a beginner of English study, and I am interested in a dictionary on CD-ROM because I love to learn correct pronunciations of "American English".

So, I am curious to know whether pronunciations of the words recorded on the Collins Cobuild CD are in American or in British. And if in British, could you please recommend a dictionary on CD which contains "American" pronunciations?


The Collins Cobuild CD pronounces words in British English. However there are several talking dictionaries with American English.

The Macmillan English Dictionary For Advanced Learners of American English is the most extensive dictionary we have seen that is written for non native speakers (ESL - English as a Second Language)learning American English. It has definitions that are often brilliantly simple and the definitions are written to be easily understood with a 2,500 word vocabulary. It has a simple grammar that is explained on the inside cover. The brilliantly simple definitions make this dictionary very useful for native speakers of English. There are no word histories.

The CD version of this dictionary can be fully installed to your hard drive so you will not need to leave the CD in your drive. However, you will have to put the CD in the drive every 30 days to validate that you own the dictionary. It speaks each entry word in British and American English.

Longman has two talking dictionaries for non-native speakers of English that pronounce American English. There is the Longman Dictionary of American English and Longman Advanced American Dictionary. Both Longman dictionaries come in paperback and/or CD. Only the Longman Advanced CD has derivations or word histories.

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary is English dictionary that has pronounces both American and British English. It comes on paper with the CD or just on CD.

Word histories can help you fully understand a word and how the many definitions came about. Since only one of the above mentioned dictionaries have word histories and then only on CD I would recommend a separate book for word histories The Heron Derivations Dictionary. It has an easy to understand history of the English Language and it has easy to understand word histories which you can use when you look up a word in a dictionary that does not have word histories.

For American English, the most extensive dictionary for pronunciations is the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. It is an unabridged dictionary, but I sell it for only $9.00 -- US -- on CD.

This is an excellent unabridged dictionary that pronounces American English.

You could get a learner's dictionary. Use it first. But when a word is not there or a definition is missing, use the Random House.

Since the Random House is an unabridged dictionary -- not a learner's -- you might not want to try to use it as your regular dictionary. You might not understand many words in the definitions.

The Collins Cobuild is for learners of English. The Advanced Learner’s Collins Cobuild is available on CD. It has good, easy to understand definitions. It pronounces the words in British English unless the word originated in America. It is a good dictionary though it does give you the British pronunciation most of the time.

Bernard Littman


From: I. D.
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2001
Subject: Etymology

On a CD dictionary, not the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), would it be possible to retrieve the etymology so that all Greek sourced words or Latin, etc. would be displayed?


Yes. Most of the dictionaries on CD let you search through the entire dictionary. So you could search on "Gr." or whatever you want in the derivation. Many dictionaries let you limit your search to just the derivation.

The Random House unabridged allows you to search only on derivations. It is an inexpensive $9 unabridged dictionary on CD.

Bernard Littman

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