I bought this dictionary while I was taking a vocabulary building course, following the suggestions of my teacher, the acclaimed linguist Charles Herrington Elster. Besides thoroughness, he insisted in the importance of etymology as inclusive of a good dictionary, a feature that is here detailed with precision, and something that is often left out of impressive volumes like the "Oxford Illustrated", published by DK Publishing.
This is a huge volume (about 3" thick), beautifully presented in library style binding and wafer thin, high quality paper. It includes illustrations, anecdotes, stories on word origins and usage; and even synonyms of particularly interesting words. These references are spread throughout the pages in different blocks of color for easy recognition. The illustrations are very realistic, using colors that approach the ones given by Mother Nature. Before starting to use it, I reccommend paying close attention to the "Explanatory Notes". Here is everything needed to know in order to milk this dictionary to its fullest. Every reason is given as to why items appear listed in the way they do, what were the basis used for etymology of the words, etc. The "Guide to Pronounciation" is both interesting and exciting, enabling us to produce a myriad of sounds we probably never knew existed. I am the kind of reader who looks up every unknown word in her dictionary and, so far, there is not a single one I haven't found; not even if belonging to a dialect or if it is a word with foreign roots.
Two appendixes complete this magnanimous volume: a biographical one and a geographical guide. Although brief, these two listings will quickly clear up any doubts on identity or place. There are also listings for symbols, such as weather, chemistry, mathematics, even stamp collecting. A supplementary "Handbook of Style" to refer to when writing a paper or in need of punctuation advise completes the dictionary and makes also an invaluable tool for writers of any kind.
This is THE dictionary that should be in every household as a more general, complete reference. Even if there are other, smaller or more specific references around; you would want this volume as your backbone.
on May 12, 2002
I admit to being a dictionary freak, but never in my fondest fantasies did I think an English dictionary would appear containing precise, concise, euphonic, professional pronunciations of the vernacular as it is spoken (or supposed to be spoken) in this country. And then it showed up! Ah, such joy. English is my second language, but just barely (I learned it when I was about 4 from my Nanny, Miss Smith). Half my family spoke vedy vedy Oxford English, and the other half no English at all, so I was brought up in an absurd greenhouse full of strange verbal emissions; from there I was released into this country to learn my first swearwords and how to pronounce things entirely differently. The result is that I have many pronunciation lacunas: either because I had never heard a word before and so I had to boldly figure it out on my own, or because I just didn't have the phonemes to correctly enunciate words like "nurse" or "bird." As a result I have often engaged in awful arguments about how certain words should be said: my version of "scone," for example, did not rhyme with stone, and was therefore universally derided by some of my American friends as peculiar and wrong. Attempts to settle on the correct pronunciation of words by means the horrific and arcane symbols used in dictionaries was futile.
As soon as I installed this program I entered the word "scone;" and on the right side of the screen the word appeared in blue (meaning that the program would pronounce it); and when I clicked on it, the wonderful sound of a properly pronounced "scone" issued from the speakers.
Next on my list of peeves came "nuclear;" the dictionary advised me to unpeeve myself off this one, because (according to M-W) our president's "nukelar" is an accepted pronunciation "which has found widespread use among educated speakers, including scientists, layers, professors, congressmen, U.S. cabinet members, and at least one U.S. president...." Oh, my!
Words taken from French (as is usual with English speakers) are correctly pronounced: such as "hors d'oeuvre;" while those borrowed from the Spanish, (as is usual with English speakers) are generally mispronounced (including the two attempts at "rodeo"). Some words are not pronounced at all, at least in my copy of the book, (such as "umlaut"), and I suspect that there are a few bugs in the program that underlies the book. But for now it is honeymoon time and I am spending an inordinate amount of hours loving this CD-ROM and not wanting to perceive that there is anything wrong with it. In a few months I may have to amend this review.
The speakers of the words are professional actors, one male, one female, and their diction is a true joy. I highly recommend this dictionary to all residents of the US who are foreign born; and also to Southerners, Midwesterners, New Englanders, New Yorkers...well, you get the picture.
on February 24, 1999
If our conservative friend ("permissive", Jan. 11, 1997) had bothered to read the entire citation, he or she would have found a thorough discussion on the controversy of "forte" and its pronunciation. It even refutes the assertion by some "haughty idiots" that it should be pronounced as "fort", citing that the French pronunciation would be "for". It is this sort of timely, exhaustive coverage that makes this dictionary so valuable. Merriam Webster's is an incredible resource, but only to those "dolts" who know how to use a dictionary.
on August 7, 1997
I come from a family where dictionaries are
used daily, whether solving crosswords,
finding definitions, or settling debates. Of
the several we own, the dictionary we all
reach for first is Merriam-Webster's Collegiate.
The definitions are concise yet thorough and clear. I always feel enlightened rather than informed. Also, the coverage is surprisingly broad. I've often found words in the Merriam-Webster's that are missing in other dictionaries.
Beyond that, Merriam-Webster's breathes life into those words with an engaging history of the English language and a date each word is first noted in print. The dates give you a real feel for the history and currency of a word.
If you don't have the bank account or shelf space for the OED, Merriam-Webster's is the best dictionary you can own.
on July 24, 2005
The thesaurus part of this program is unfortunately not comprehensive enough. For example, it did not have any sysnonyms for the following words I typed in right after I installed it: vicarious, obscurantist, thunderous, proverbial, encase. The number of synonyms it offers for many words is pitifully small--just a few in many cases. The thesaurus provided with WORD is already more comprehensive, so there is really no reason to purchase this program if you are mainly interested in the thesaurus. To be fair, though, the program is very easy to install and use.
on January 12, 2002
This CD gives you all the info in the hardcover, plus a few extras. That's great. The problem is that the software is difficult to install and annoying to use. There is an install optinon to install the sound data on your hard drive. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. There is a 29 page PDF manual which tells you how to install the sound manually, but that doesn't work either. There is a large readme file which gives completely different instructions for this task, and it is also incorrect, but it will get you close enough that you can figure out the rest if you are good with computers. When you launch the program, you get a splash screen that says "Authority & Inovation." While you are trying to figure out what that means and waiting for the program to launch, you have the feeling that you could have walked over to your bookshelf and looked up the word in the hardcover edition and saved time. MS Word, previously the slowest program I use, is up and running in half the time. There is a lot that doesn't work like you would expect. If you click on "Spelling Help" and type "annoying" into the dialog box and click OK, it says "No entries found!" Somewhere in the manual it probably tells you what you have to do to make it work. In contrast, the 100,000 word Webster's Dictionary an Thesaurus that sells for about[...]works well and is fast.
on July 29, 2005
I never expected I could get so much functionalities with paying just $16.47 for this brand new Deluxe Audion Edition. Wow! I originally thought to buy it for my nice for a gift to congratulate to her going to the college but I ended up bought myself a copy too and I would also qualify for the free delivery because of that!
I love the double click on any word that bring you directly to the entry of that word, so much convenient.
The Audio is definitely why I wanted to buy this Edition for. I thought to buy the Unabridged CD Edition but it doesn't have the audio pronounciation :(, why they just create a version with a 2 or more disc set that can contain all the audio files or just create a DVD version? This is certainly a disapointment to me but not for this Edition though.
Another nice part I like is the illustrations to the words. Nicer, in some of the pictures, there are also descriptions, such as for horse, it also points out every part of the horse itself....
The macros installed into the MS Word are also a very good feature. Whenever you see red giglies to the word you just typed in, you can use this micro by either of the two ways, you will figure them out very easily, and it will look it up for you.
Installation is very easy too to both XP and 2000 systems.
It's definitely a good deal. I highly recommend it.
on February 22, 2003
If you're looking for a very comprehensive dictionary on a modest budget, look no further. M-W's offering is a very fine tool indeed. It is an indispensable part of my desktop, and gets used often. Easy to install and use, I can't imagine not having it.
on April 2, 2007
If you're fed up with fumbling even a collegiate-sized or paperback book on your lap just to quickly look up a definition, synonym or spelling, you'll love this electronic dictionary/thesaurus, which conveniently presents all that right on the computer screen where you're already working.
But unfortunately, you'll have to minimize your current program to get to the desktop icon for this program, since it offers no way to pop it up from an icon in the tray -- its worst shortcoming, in my view.
The only way to have it immediately available is by running it, then minimizing it to the taskbar, where it consumes space along with other programs you may already have minimized there. I suppose that's really a minor quibble, but it bugs me greatly because there's no reason beyond lazy programming that it couldn't have offered a tray icon option.
The two exceptions to that are if you're writing in MS Word or Corel's WordPerfect, where macros can be installed as buttons, allowing you to highlight a word and pop it up in the dictionary/thesaurus by clicking that button.
But that's a sadly limited use of a major program's pop-up capability, which with a little extra programming could have been expanded to include virtually any selected word on the screen, as is possible with some other electronic dictionaries.
That notwithstanding, the program offers the same robust selection of definitions and synonyms you'll find in the printed Merriam-Webster Collegiate, but with a number of easily clickable search options for finding them. They're also presented in basically the same excellent format Merriam-Webster uses in its printed versions.
If you can't find a suitable word in the 225,000 definitions and 340,000 synonyms and related words available in this program, you're probably looking for something that'll drive whoever's reading what you're writing to a dictionary.
Selecting the dictionary or thesaurus is as quick and easy as clicking on either from a drop-down menu prominently at the top of the program -- and you can set either as the default on startup.
Other configuration preferences are sparsely limited to changing text size/color and background color, and setting a default for any of the 19 search "types."
To look up a word, you can select from three tabbed options:
Basic Searches (Entry word is...): You'd likely use this most. As soon as you enter the first letter a list pops up in a lower window with everything beginning with that letter. As you type additional letters, you increasingly drill down to words nearer what you're looking for, ending with your word highlighted when you type the final letter. This is basically exactly the same routine as when you use the "Find" feature of any Windows help program -- and sure beats flipping through pages of a book.
Advanced Searches: This is a Boolean thing using AND, OR, NOT and some possible parenthetical expressions. I found it to be mostly an advanced piece of uselessness.
Browse: This is basically like thumbing through a printed dictionary starting at some letter and functions exactly the same as drilling down through the letters of a word using the Basic search feature. But -- and that's a big BUT -- its two options of searching for either the beginning or ending of a word can be a lifesaver when you have no idea how to begin spelling that word. For example: Try looking up "ptarmigan" under "T" or "mnemonic" under "N." You'll get nowhere fast on either. But search for the fairly obvious endings and sooner than later you'll find those words.
One other quibble I have with this program is that it refuses to recognize my USB mouse wheel for scrolling through the word lists. But I've learned to be content with the side slider.
Its few shortcomings aside, at Amazon's price this program's a world-class bargain, functions flawlessly for what it's intended and hands down beats wrestling with a book.
on September 12, 1999
This is a marvellous dictionary. Its vocabulary is extensive and it supplements its definitions with etymological notes, synonyms and even the occasional illustration. Before buying it, I did wonder if there were some subtle hint being dropped by KARINA SUAREZ who, on the one hand, lauded this book, and yet, on the other, managed to misspell "disappointed" as "dissapointed". But I am relieved to report it was merely a faux-pas by her! Fear not.