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Customer Review

477 of 512 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars W3 or OED?, March 29, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language (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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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 28, 2007 3:53:37 AM PST
Rajat K Bose says:
OED is a reference for etymology scholars, linguists and such researchers while W3 is a dictionary meant to be used by English language users. Both are truly great in their own spheres. Please do not compare apples with bananas.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2007 9:28:23 PM PDT
Mark Farley says:
Not only that, but the _American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language_ has a wealth of etymologies, and is even superior to OED & W3, when it comes to tracing words as far back as possible to their roots (PIE or otherwise). Plus, for what it is worth, its illustrations are far superior. (OED has none, and W3's look like something from the 19th century.)

Posted on Aug 30, 2007 11:48:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 31, 2007 4:46:03 AM PDT
Noetica says:
This reviewer seriously misrepresents how things work with the OED on CD-ROM. I have it installed on the hard drive of my computer, and it is therefore as easy to use as W3 is alleged to be, since both are available as print and CD-ROM versions. In any case, the serious pedant and the serious scholar of English will want both. I think I will buy W3 on CD-ROM soon.

Posted on Feb 17, 2008 6:03:27 PM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Sep 23, 2008 11:23:05 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 30, 2010 9:37:44 AM PDT
Harputlu says:
I take issue with this reviewer: a. There are not only two definitive English dictionaries; there are many. American Heritage 4th Ed. and Random House Dictionary of English Language are two American publications; there are several European publishers also. The size of the tome never determines the "definitiveness" of the dictionary. b. If you have a CD ROM version of a dictionary it is installable in your HD; mine are already installed: OED, American Heritage, as Well as M-W 3rd so all of them are just one click away.

Often just a definition of a word is not adequate;usage examples are necessary to really get the finer nuances of words' various meanings. That is where OED shines, on the other hand American Heritage Dictionary 4th Ed. tries hard to distinguish the various meanings and give clear examples, and AHD 4th Ed. has a most excellent pronunciation guide for all words.

An unsung hero of the dictionary world is the Webster's New World College Dictionary, and many wordsmiths swear by it. See if this is not an impressive credential: It is used by the Associated Press and The New York Times as their official in house dictionary and it sells for $26 bucks, CD ROM is included-the bad part it lacks MacIntosh version. Wiley should be aware many creative people use Macs, therefore proportionally more Mac users consult dictionaries.

Posted on Dec 14, 2009 2:15:25 PM PST
MP Reader says:
FYI: Synecdoche is also found in my Shorter OED, Fifth Edition (two volumes, more than 500,000 definitions Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: Thumb Indexed), as well as my American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition (one volume, more than 200,000 definitions). Of the three, the American Heritage is the lightest and easiest to deal with. I will typically use either my copy of Webster's Third New International (1961), or the Shorter OED (2003) only if the word I am seeking is not in the American Heritage (1985). My point being that there are often good alternatives to either the OED (unabridged), or Webster's Third International.

Posted on Sep 13, 2010 4:23:29 PM PDT
R. M. Aarons says:
I just did for 'synecdoche' what I usually do when I want to look up a word in any language: I typed the words 'synecdoche' and 'definition' into the google search bar and got the definition immediately, with a choice of links to click for more info. I have the three-volume Webster's Third on my shelf but I rarely refer to it. Same goes for all the other physical dictionaries I have (Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, etc.) that I have.

Posted on Jun 4, 2011 3:48:56 AM PDT
Jim Roberts says:
Webster's Unabridged, 2nd Ed (1966), the last complete proscriptive dictionary I know of, is the ultimate reference in this house for the meaning of English words. W3 is inferior, except in the inclusion of more foreign words, and if you have a pre-teen who wants to be a spelling champion, as it is the sole source and arbiter for the National Spelling Bee. For hardcopy I use the NOAD, 3rd, and on my computer the COED11 CD-ROM loaded onto the hard drive. The NOAD is quite satisfactory on word origins, has good illustrative drawings, and some B&W photos. However, it does not have many of the foreign words that are oddly perfectly acceptable for an American official spelling bee. The NOAD, however, does have 'kongoni', which neither of my Webster's has.

Posted on Sep 6, 2014 11:53:17 PM PDT
T. K. Eng says:
Does this dictionary provide examples of usage and quotations? My tattered copy of Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English is fantastic in terms of providing modern usage examples but it's not the most comprehensive dictionary around.

I'm a reader/writer and need a comprehensive dictionary for my own writing and for tackling obscure or obsolete words that i sometimes come across in older fiction. Like the previous commenter, Harputlu, i find usage examples very enlightening especially when it comes to my own writing. Quotations are, for me, more of an interesting aside and etymological entries are not essential for me. I hope owners of the Webster's 3rd would be able to advise. Cheers
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