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Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language

4.1 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0877792017
ISBN-10: 0877792011
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If big is better, the unabridged Webster's Third New International Dictionary is among the best. Weighing 12.5 pounds and measuring 4 inches thick, its 2,662 pages define more than 450,000 words spanning "a" to "zyzzogeton," including words ("disselboom" for instance) not found in other dictionaries, plus clear definitions, comprehensive etymologies, interesting asides, literary usage quotes, and a comfortable typeface. More than 150 years of accumulated scholarship helped collect the 10,000,000 usage examples that accurately provide definitions, and $3,500,000 went into producing this impressive volume. With Webster's Third you get a lot of dictionary for your money.

About the Author

The Merriam brothers desired a continuity of editorship that would link Noah Webster's efforts with their own editions, so they selected Chauncey A. Goodrich, Webster's son-in-law and literary heir, who had been trained in lexicography by Webster himself, to be their editor in chief. Webster's son William also served as an editor of that first Merriam-Webster dictionary, which was published on September 24, 1847.

Although Webster's work was honored, his big dictionaries had never sold well. The 1828 edition was priced at a whopping $20; in 13 years its 2,500 copies had not sold out. Similarly, the 1841 edition, only slightly more affordable at $15, moved slowly. Assuming that a lower price would increase sales, the Merriams introduced the 1847 edition at $6, and although Webster's heirs initially questioned this move, extraordinary sales that brought them $250,000 in royalties over the ensuing 25 years convinced them that the Merriams' decision had been abundantly sound.

The first Merriam-Webster dictionary was greeted with wide acclaim. President James K. Polk, General Zachary Taylor (hero of the Mexican War and later president himself), 31 U.S. senators, and other prominent people hailed it unreservedly. In 1850 its acceptance as a resource for students began when Massachusetts ordered a copy for every school and New York placed a similar order for 10,000 copies to be used in schools throughout the state. Eventually school use would spread throughout the country. In becoming America's most trusted authority on the English language, Merriam-Webster dictionaries had taken on a role of public responsibility demanded of few other publishing companies. 

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2662 pages
  • Publisher: Merriam-Webster (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877792011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877792017
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 9.7 x 3.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
There are only two definitive English language dictionaries: Webster's Third (W3) and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
The OED has the advantage of scholarship, prestige and preeminence: it is generally regarded as the gold standard in the definition of English words. It achieves this primarily by citing historical books and manuscripts, going back in many cases to the dark ages, when the language itself was evolving. Comprising some 22 volumes and requiring more than three feet of shelf space, it is an impressive addition to anyone's library, albeit at a high cost. It is available, again at high cost, on CD ROM.
W3 is a single volume about four inches wide. It offers a precise definition of every word you will ever encounter (450,000 are listed) except for slang and jargon, obsolete words, technical vocabularies and recent additions to the language. It is not above providing an occasional literary allusion. It defines the English language.
Suppose you want to look up the word "synecdoche." Which of the following scenarios do you prefer?
(1) Find volume 10 of the OED and learn that Wyclif (1338) defined it as "whanne a part is set for al, either al is set for oo par . . ."
(2) Start computer, find CD ROM, load CD ROM, go to OED, step through program, find information, unload CD ROM, turn off computer, file CD ROM, go back to what you were doing in the first place.
(3) Open W3 and read "a figure of speech by which a part is put for a whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships) . . ."
W3 is THE dictionary. It belongs in everyone's home. At the listed price it is an incredible bargain. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I have wished for a long time for the CD version of the Oxford English Dictionary and was on the verge of buying it until I read a review that expressed disappointment with OED-CD ease of use. The reviewer highly recommended Websters 3rd New International Dictionary:Unabridged which I purchased instead. The program is very easy to use and easily links to my MS Word.
I do have four disappointments - First, I have a real interest in etymology and though the NID:U has an etymology section it is very brief.
Second, though the CD is dated 2000 I have wondered just how up-to-date it is. For example, the word "internet" is not found.
Third, many of the illustrations in the print version are NOT in the CD version. That is a big disappointment.
Fourth, the dictionary does not contain many proper nouns or names. For example, out of the many uses for the word "Lincoln" not one definition lists Abraham as in President; neither is there any listing for Jefferson, either as President or Memorial. Look up Georgia and you will find that it is a state but there is no reference to the now country of Georgia, a former Soviet Republic. Look up any of the planets, Saturn, Venus, Mars, etc. and you find no mention of these words as describing the planets! The more I look the more disappointed I become. It is sold as an "unabridged" dictionary and according to the definition means complete, which the Wester's 3rd New International:Unabridged is not.
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Format: Hardcover
I just received my copy of Web's 3rd Unabridged Dictionary from Amazon. Overall I am happy and would recommend it to anyone with enough of a love for words and language to take the step up from the standard abridged dictionaries. However, I have one reservation I think is worth pointing out to the readers of this review. Amazon shows this book as an October 2000 release. The included cd appears to be 2000 (I have not yet checked to see whether its a real updated version), but the book itself is 1993. I am disappointed in that date, because I expect it will lack a lot of recent techno-jargon that I would have expected in a 2000 publication.
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Format: Hardcover
This review is unavoidably dichotomized: one is for the dictionary and one is for the publisher.

As for the dictionary, I have to express my deep admiration for Webster's Third New International Dictionary: it is in my opinion a wondrous dictionary, the best I have ever used. I am a researcher and I extensively use English in writing. For so much time I have rested upon imprecise or unclear dictionaries. When I came across the Webster's Dictionary I found the foremost authority in English dictionaries. The feature I most appreciate of this dictionary is that, unlike the other ones, it is based on multiple concise definitions for most words. That is, it explains meanings by means of two or three (sometimes more) different sentences which are always brief and pellucid (instead of one definition consisting of a long unwieldy sentence). Thus, the reader's cognitive effort in understanding is much smaller. Numerous examples help readers to understand every nuance of the word: the sources are diverse (literature, science, history, philosophy, etc.) and cover a wide range of contexts. Many usage notes provide synonyms and help the reader to distinguish semantically related words.
I suggest anyone to buy it at once, and I also suggest to carefully read the guide to the dictionary and to the pronunciation: you will find that the Webster's Dictionary is a very powerful tool, a lot of information is conveyed, more than you might think before reading the guide.

As for the publisher, I agree with the review entitled ``What a piece of junk'', and I would like to address one word to Merriam-Webster: lazy! You are very lazy. Webster's Dictionary is a petrified dictionary, no revised edtion has been made from 1961. I am astonished, I wonder what you are doing.
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