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356 of 369 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Dictionary, but the New Oxford American Dictionary is Better
The American Heritage Dictionary is an excellent 1 volume dictionary, complete with the newest words, beautiful colorful design, and over 2,000 pages on all facets of the English language. I will compare this dictionary to the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) as these are the two best 1-volume English dictionaries available.

In my opinion, the NOAD is...
Published on July 7, 2007 by Seven Octaves

versus
198 of 219 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buyer Beware: The Handsome Book is Flawed!
After using "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" (4th ed.) on a daily basis for three weeks, I have discovered that there is a potential defect in it that prospective buyers need beware. The paper used for the pages of this dictionary is very thin, almost like tissue paper. When I turn pages in searching for a word, the bottoms of the pages...
Published on December 19, 2000 by Laure-Madeleine


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356 of 369 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Dictionary, but the New Oxford American Dictionary is Better, July 7, 2007
By 
Seven Octaves (Colorado United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Hardcover)
The American Heritage Dictionary is an excellent 1 volume dictionary, complete with the newest words, beautiful colorful design, and over 2,000 pages on all facets of the English language. I will compare this dictionary to the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) as these are the two best 1-volume English dictionaries available.

In my opinion, the NOAD is clearly a better dictionary for reasons listed below. Generally, the NOAD's entries are longer and more detailed, hence the reader gets more information. The American Heritage definitions are almost too concise (usually too concise for my preference) although many people may prefer the shorter definitions. Each dictionary will have a number of lesser know words (and even some more common words) the other dictionary will not have (especially scientific words, geographical locations, and newer words), so one dictionary is not superior as far as having a significant amount of more entries. It appears to me the NOAD has more entries, but even if it doesn't, it is still a better dictionary.

Some comparisons of American Heritage Dictionary (2006) to the NOAD (New Oxford American Dictionary)(2004)

-The American Heritage 2,006 pages long A to Z, the NOAD is 1,959 pages A to Z. The American Heritage does not list anywhere that I can see how many entries it has. The NOAD says it has over 250,000 entries. The font of the American Heritage is smaller but it is just as easy to read as the NOAD's font. The NOAD uses 3 columns per page, the American Heritage uses 2.

-The American Heritage has some newer words not found in NOAD, such as Red state, Blue state, Sudoku, Texas hold'em, but don't get the idea though this makes it better than the NOAD. Here are some words (some relatively recent) the NOAD has that the American Heritage does not have: macarana (the dance), tamagotchi (the Japanese toy), October Surprise, Hamas (the militant Palestinian group), heat-seeking, (as a missile) tarte Tatin, solid south, spaceship earth.

-The American Heritage is visually more appealing with its 4.000 color pictures complete with a nice design layout. Although the NOAD lacks color, it has many effective illustrations, and it even devotes full pages to maps.

-A big advantage of the American Heritage is that it details some interesting etymological histories of about 400 common words. For instance the American Heritage dictionary gives a 13-line history on the word Kangaroo, explaining that it is not from an Aborigine meaning "I do not know," and then proceeds to explain the true history of the word. The American Heritage also has usage notes on over 750 synonyms, 100 notes on regionalisms, 500 notes on usage issues, and 50 notes on the social dimensions of some words.

-Although the NOAD does not give these selected, interesting word histories, overall the NOAD etymology is done much better than the American Heritage's etymology. The NOAD's etymological explanations are consistently more detailed, and it will frequently add a time frame when the word came into use, e.g. early 17th century (although it will not give specific years), something the American Heritage does not. The NOAD will give folk etymology of some words, and like the American Heritage will give notes on proper usage and help the reader/writer use the right word with synonyms.

-One huge advantage the NOAD has over the American Heritage is that it adds many, many more common word phrase origins associated with a word, including proverbs, clichés, etc. For instance the word `pie" n. the NOAD will list the phrases "as easy as pie" "as sweet as pie" "a slice of the pie" and "pie in the sky" (and giving definitions of each phrase) while the American Heritage just lists and defines "pie in the sky." The NOAD will also give the origin of a few phrases such as "flash in the pan" (from the failure of gunpowder to ignite properly to fire a gun). The American Heritage does none of this with its phrases, but note that the American Heritage Dictionary publishes a separate book on word phrase origins, which is probably the reason it places little emphasis on them in its main dictionary.

-The NOAD is superior in the biographical entries to the American Heritage. Each dictionary will have some people the other will not, but when they are similar, the NOAD almost always gives more information in a biographical entry. The NOAD is also superior in geographical entries. food entries, and political terms. The NOAD is also better at including entries one would normally find in an encyclopedia, for instance Tamil Tigers, Hammond Organ, Abby Road are in the NOAD, but not in the American Heritage.

-The NOAD is slightly better in giving information about nations of the world. The American Heritage's entries on nations is short and very basic, while the NOAD's, though not much longer, it will nevertheless give a better history of a country than the American Heritage will.

I love dictionaries, and in comparing these two dictionaries, the NOAD to me has its pulse on the English language more than the American Heritage. The American Heritage Dictionary however is still very good choice, but if I could take only one, it would be the NOAD. If you love words, you should get both to enjoy the variety each provides.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Gets Even Better!, January 4, 2007
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This review is from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Hardcover)
The fresh, full-color design, enhanced by 4,000 photographs, drawings, and maps in the 4th edition of this truly first-rate dictionary are a noticeable and welcome improvement. As always, of course, the definitions are precise and intelligible, with the most current or central meaning given first -- and the etymologies are excellent. My 3rd edition went home beside the chair where I read, and the 4th is now ensconced on my office desk, where it is used daily. "New and improved" is generally nothing more than a cliche when applied to most products, but the 4th edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language is genuinely both.
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87 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mighty fine dictionary, February 15, 2007
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This review is from: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Hardcover)
This past fall I sat in on a negotiations course at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the professor (an extraordinarily creative and free-thinking fellow) recommended that students purchase this particular dictionary because it frequently provides etymological information about words in addition to definitions. I have many etymological dictionaries, but it's nice to have both the definition and a brief etymological note in the same dictionary. It's a classy looking dictionary and would be a great choice for any college or post-grad student. I'm into words -- I own about 30 or 40 different dictionaries (including the OED) so I have a fair basis for comparison. I'm enjoying the American Heritage Dictionary, and I hope if you buy one, you will enjoy it as much.
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198 of 219 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buyer Beware: The Handsome Book is Flawed!, December 19, 2000
After using "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" (4th ed.) on a daily basis for three weeks, I have discovered that there is a potential defect in it that prospective buyers need beware. The paper used for the pages of this dictionary is very thin, almost like tissue paper. When I turn pages in searching for a word, the bottoms of the pages become very easily chipped (small tears occur). I am very concerned that my new dictionary will become shredded within a few months. I have not had this problem with the same dictionary in the third edition; my copy is several years old. (Publisher please take note and use better paper in subsequent printings.)
I still recommend "The AHD" (4th ed.) as a very good reference dictionary, but if one plans to use it a lot as I do, then "handle with care."
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific portable, November 29, 1999
By 
Pirate Jenny (Brookline, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This has 10,000 more words than the Random House Webster's portable that I had before. The definitions are clear and useful. I have the hardcover at home, which is an amazing reference book. I have this at work, and it's faster to just grab it than to go to the computer dictionary.
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131 of 147 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Judge a Book By It's Color, January 17, 2001
By A Customer
Whether the Fourth Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary is an improvement over the Third Edition is questionable. The most obvious difference between them is the application of color to the thumbnail illustrations which embellish the outside margins of the page. The application of color may be a smart marketing move, but it enhances the least important aspect of the work. The improvement is marginal, since the detail of these miniatures tends to suffer. After using the 4th edition for awhile, I found that I favored the monochrome pictures of the 3rd edition.
The 4th edition is a good dictionary, and no doubt admirably reflects the rapid change and growth of the lexicon. My complaint is with the perception that the publishers encourage, that this oversized reference is more comprehensive than the leading standard sized college dictionaries on the market. I am not able to claim, that Merriam-Webster's Collegiate (as one example) is more comprehensive that the Heritage. Such a determination is beyond me. However, I have calculated the amount of text contained in these two works, per line, per page, and total. Surprisingly, the smaller Merriam-Webster contains a comparable number of words of text over all.
The art of dictionary making is primarily one of including as many entries, definitions, etymologies, and other essential information about words, as possible within the limitations of the printed work. Heritage takes the way of least resistance by simply making the book larger, much larger, and filling the space with eye candy, and removing most of the intimidating abbreviations. The folks at Merriam-Webster have chosen the more traditional way. Theirs is the more disciplined and painstaking approach of condensing information through the judicious use of page space, typography, and reasonable abbreviations, with the objective of presenting the reader with more substantive and scholarly lexicographical information. The standard edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate is about half the size and weight of the Heritage, and costs significantly less. The Collegiate is printed on paper with more body, and with pages sized right for easy turning, making that book easier to handle on a day-to-day basis. Finally, because the Collegiate seems to offer more lexical information on each word listed, and seems to list as many words as the Heritage, it behooves the buyer to consider carefully what he or she wants and needs in a dictionary, before making a purchase.
A serious student of the language, a frequent writer, a person who often needs to take the dictionary along with him, and anyone who just wants an inexpensive yet sturdy and reliable one-source reference work of impeccable scholarship may find that such works as Webster's New World College Dictionary, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate, and even the Heritage's own college edition may suit their needs better than the full sized Heritage Fourth. On careful examination, a wary buyer will find that these alternative references are quite on a par with the Heritage, except for type size and the pretty, but frustratingly tiny illustrations. While older stay-at-homes may find the larger format an advantage, others may find the opposite. My handsome Heritage 3rd Edition is still like new, collecting dust on the shelf across the room, while my standard college desk dictionary is now a well used reference book, taking up little space on my desk at home and at work.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journying through the English Language -- AHD 4th Edition, August 26, 2000
By 
George L. Beiler (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The Fourth Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary has preserved all the best features of the Third Edition -- and the illustrations are now in color! While it is easier to look up words on a CD-ROM, it is worth buying the book, too, because readers can find much interesting information browsing through it. Everywhere, there are interesting word histories, usage notes, notes on regional usages and notes on recent changes in the English language.
An appendix with Indo-European roots, while somewhat technical, provides a wealth of interesting information. Readers can learn, for instance, that a commonly-used obscenity is derived from the same Indo-European root as the word "science."
The new edition has added an index of roots from the Semitic languages which have found their way into English, including in the names of people in the Bible.
The many features of this dictionary make it more than just an ordinary reference book. It can provide many hours of pleasure wandering through its pages.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best paperback dictionary yet., August 20, 2000
By 
Demian Marienthal (Takayama, Gifu Japan) - See all my reviews
This dictionary is one of the most informative dictionaries of the English tongue (both in Britain and America) I have come across so far. Other dictionaries such as Britain's Chambers dictionary offer merely the definitions. The American Heritage Dictionary, however, offers the words' definitions, etymologies, and various pronunciations and spellings. In addition, this dictionary is also encyclopedic, succinctly explaining about certain people, places, events, et cetera. Moreover, many of these encyclopedic explanations are accompanied by small photographs. I do question, however, the title "The American Heritage Dictionary". Many of the words in this dictionary are also spoken in other countries such as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. Indeed, there are Americanisms included in this dictionary. But one may also find these Americanisms in British dictionaries such as Chambers. Nevertheless, as a whole the American Heritage dictionary will be beneficial to English speakers of all nationalities.
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107 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly outstanding dictionary, August 7, 2001
By 
Werner Cohn (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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I am a man of many dictionaries, in many languages. I keep a Webster-Merriam Unabridged in my study, plus earlier editions of the American Heritage, and I also keep one-volume dictionaries in each room of my house. But this present 4th edition American Heritage is very special; it has quickly become my favorite of all the English-language dictionaries that I own. First, there is the physical layout -- the beautiful pictures, the type face that makes for easy reading, the wonderful color. But mainly it is a matter of sheer amount and quality of information. Try, for instance, the "f-word." Of course we all know how to spell it and what it means when a teenager yells it. But did you its history in the English language ? The 4th edition tells it. You may think that you don't want to know, but after you read this word history, and many others in this book, you know that you will not want to do without this dictionary ever again. Of course, this book is no substitute for an unabridged. I tried it on the phrase "term of art," something that comes up frequently in court opinions and other learned discussions. This dictionary will not tell you what the phrase means, but my trusty Webster-Merriam Unabridged will. So you see, you too need to be a person of many dictionaries, or at the very least of two.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from a lexicographer, October 14, 2005
By 
Margaret Magnus (Francestown, NH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I'm a lexicographer and computational linguist by profession -- I have very nearly read this book (and a couple others) cover to cover. I just have to say that AH is a superior dictionary for everyday use.

I work for companies that maintain online dictionaries, and am, among other things responsible for comparing the contents of these lists with the latest published dictionaries to ascertain which entries should be deleted and which new ones included. I find that AH very rarely has bad judgement with respect to selection of entries.

Perhaps the reason another reviewer didn't find Carl Gauss or Reimann is because their names are actually Karl Gauss and Riemann. And I appreciate the fact that AH has gone a long way toward rectifying the perception conveyed by most older biographical dictionaries that all great people have been white, European and male. We need Gauss in there of couse, but we also need Robeson and St. Vincent Millay who won a Pulitzer Prize just like Frost, and who wrote just as beautifully.

Its goal obviously is to both be a desktop dictionary in a single volume, and yet include the words that educated American speakers are likely to encounter in modern, non-technical publications. (And yes, it is an American dictionary, which is why colour is defined as 'Chiefly British, variant of color'.) This objective becomes harder and harder to achieve as the base of English-speaking people expands, and the Internet makes so many more things available to the average reader. The average person may use words like 'alacrity' less often than they did 200 years ago, but in point of fact, the average person's active vocabulary is expanding.

I prefer the way they organize their word senses to what Webster does. (I never compare things to the OED, because that is a work of art, deserving of veneration.) It reserves entirely new entries for an entirely unrelated sense. AH will give iris(flower) and iris(of the eye) two different senses, but Webster's gives (though not entirely consistently) the nominal and verbal senses of, say, 'claim' entirely different entries. AH includes them under the same entry, because they are semantically very closely related.

The etymological Appendix of AH is also kind of famous among linguists. They have very nicely systematized and cross-referenced their entries against their hypothesized Indo-European roots. It's quite well researched, and also a lot of fun.
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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition by Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries (Hardcover - April 12, 2006)
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