Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Coventry University, The Alan Turing Institute & Macmillan Education's online course, Understanding English Dictionaries. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds I use a dictionary to learn new words or unfamiliar expressions. We use a dictionary at home when we are playing games, particularly when we are playing Scrabble. We use it to check if words exist so especially those little two-letter words that are very useful on the Scrabble board and sometimes we use it for crosswords as well if we are trying to fit a word into its particular space. Well English is a capricious language in terms of pronunciation and orthography. I usually need to resort to my dictionary to solve a problem. I use a dictionary mostly to check word spellings but sometimes to check where words come from, the etymology.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds I use a dictionary to look up the meanings of words that I don’t know and also to find out more about the origins of some of the words that I do know. So in the past few years I’ve become particularly interested in the Oxford Word of the Year as a way of demonstrating the connection between social reality and communication in digital media. I use a dictionary when I am confused especially to look for the meanings of words which are unfamiliar. To clarify the word I’m looking for and to find out other meanings of the same word and I use online dictionary more often than hard copies because hard copies are not very up-to-date.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds Primarily I use a dictionary to look up phrases in foreign languages, words and phrases in languages that I am not familiar with but also I find that I have to look up words that I think might be misspellings but in fact they have actually become real words. I use a dictionary for example now if I don’t understand a word that I haven’t seen before or heard before and also I use a dictionary to try and understand the meaning of that word that I have heard.

Views from campus

We asked a few people in Coventry why they used dictionaries and this is what they said.

Your task

What different uses for dictionaries did the people in the video report?

Can you think of any more uses?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Understanding English Dictionaries

Coventry University