Customer Reviews: Merriam-Webster's Rhyming Dictionary
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on January 30, 2011
I recently purchased an I-pad hoping that it would save me some money on college textbooks. It was with great excitement that I downloaded the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (Kindle Edition). Not only was it less expensive, it seemed ideal in the sense that I could search it using keywords and not by flipping pages. I am taking an editing course and my very first assignment proved to me that I should have purchased the actual text version, as the vast majority of the words I looked up, were nowhere to be found on this version. My instructor's print version contained acronyms and a variety of other words that I simply could not find anywhere on the Kindle version. I felt like an idiot. And these were just the first few words I was required to look up in the very first paragraph. A quick online search brought these words up immediately in the online MW free dictionary. But, I paid for this dictionary and it's supposedly the same version as the print, yet it's incomplete. Save your money and the hassle of having to buy both versions (what I ended up doing after the Kindle version failed to bring any words that I needed to look-up up) and just get it in print. The Kindle version will NOT have the same entries, nor even the entire dictionary including appendixes, keys, legends and reference material.
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This is a fine dictionary. It even smells good. Too hefty to be portable, it is nevertheless a perfect desk dictionary, starting with a seventeen-page explanatory chart and notes, an essay on the English language, and a guide to pronunciation. The volume continues with excellent definitions that are sometimes accompanied by b&w line drawings, and finishes with sections on foreign words & phrases, biographical names, geographical names, signs & symbols in various fields of endeavor, punctuation, capitals & italics, documenting sources, forms of address and an index. [..]

This is the most comprehensive collegiate dictionary to date, with many new entries since 1996's tenth edition, and it is well organized wih a nice clean font (though it may be a bit troublesome for those who are far-sighted). It always amazes me that we can purchase so much information so inexpensively. This is a terrific resource -- it's time to update your dictionary!!
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For several decades now, THE MERRIAM-WEBSTER'S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY has served as the standard American English dictionary. I have done a good deal of copyediting over the years, and every publisher I have worked with has specified this dictionary (along with the Webster's Unabridged) as the standard governoring the way that American English words are spells and defined. Although one can feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of dictionaries in the reference section of any good bookstore, this volume is as close to authoritative as we have in the United States. One might have a preference for another, but this is the only one that enjoys widespread authoritative acceptance.
The dust jacket explains the ways that the new 11th edition has been expanded, but personally, while I am quite certain that it has been expanded, I have not noticed a great deal of difference from the 10th edition. It may be definitive and improved, but most of the improvements will be difficult for anyone to detect. The new CD-ROM included with it, however, is a vast improvement on the previous software that was developed based on the 10th edition. When the 10th edition first came out, CD software was not widely available. A CD version of the dictionary did eventually come out, but it was somewhat rudimentary. The new CD-ROM, however, is a huge improvement. For instance, when looking up any word, a column will display a number of words that approximate the word that your are attempting to look up. If you can merely approximate the spelling, you can frequently find the correct word. Furthermore, by double clicking on any word in the online dictionary, you will pull up the listing for that word. The CD-ROM also has a link to the Internet.
Let's face it. Buying dictionaries for most people is about as exciting as having one's oil changed. But like oil changes, dictionaries are essential. For the foreseeable future, this one is going to remain the definitive American English dictionary.
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on July 10, 2003
Unlike prescriptive dictionaries such as the American Heritage Dictionary, which rely on self-appointed panels of "experts" to decide what correct usage should be, descriptive dictionaries such as this and Merriam-Webster's Third International try to keep pace with how the language is actually used by speakers. This may explain why the Webster's Collegiate dictionaries have been the standard reference in the American publishing industry for a long time.
This is easily the best dictionary of its class, period. It has an extraordinarily large number of entries and its definitions are concise and easy to understand. The only shortcoming is that there are few example sentences, but this is a necessary tradeoff to keep the size under control. For sheer richness of information it doesn't compare to the New Shorter OED, for example, but then again you can't toss the NSOED into your backpack and take it to school with you. This book is light and compact.
But the thing that really sets this dictionary apart is the CD-ROM. You can search for words using up to 15 different operations, including "rhymes with," "is a cryptogram of," "homophones are," "etymology includes," etc. You can use AND and OR operators to combine the various operations. These search functions are a tremendous asset to anybody who works with words, particularly writers, poets, and songwriters.
And did I mention that you get a free one-year subscription to their online dictionary with your purchase?
This package is a tremendous value for the money and really belongs in every home and office. And I have no doubt that Webster's 11 will continue to be the gold standard in the publishing industry for the foreseeable future.<I> --This text refers to an edition which conatins a CD-ROM. Not all editions of this item contain a CD. Please check the item desription for further information.--</I>
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on July 13, 2003
I just got my Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition from Amazon and am looking forward to getting to know it better. Past editions of the Collegiate have been in many ways excellent, expecially in the clear, crisp definitions and well-researched albeit brief etymologies. It appears that this edition is no exception.
My summary impression is that this is a dictionary well worth buying, perhaps the best desk dictionary one can find.
The Collegiates, including this one, have been bit quirky, especially as regards pronuncation. For example, this dictionary has a strange relationaship with the schwa sound. In previous editions thre were many apparently inadvertent switches between the schwa (last vowel sound in "circus") and the short u sound (as in "but"). In this edition, however, there are four different sounds (including the short u) that are indicated by easily confusible variants of the schwa symbol.
In addition, the "a" vowels in marry and Mary -- distinguished by many mainstream speakers of American English -- are left undifferentiated, as in previous editions.
As in previous editions, a key to pronunciation symbols is provided on each recto page. Unfortunately, this little list omits perhaps 2/3 of the list of pronunciation symbols that fill one page of the front matter (making it hard to find each time you need it).
(If I were king of Merriam-Webster, I'd put the full pronunciation key where it belongs: on the inside front or back covers, or both.)
Another frustrating aspect for most users *was* that at least in the Tenth Edition, the oldest and often least-used definition of a word was listed first, causing your search for a certain definition usually to be more work.
It *appears* that this practice has now been abandoned with the Eleventh Edition, though I haven't found any explicit reference to it in the explanatory notes. If so, this will noticeably improve the ease of using this book.
Printing-wise, it appears that the darkness of the type has deepened in the Eleventh Edition (although this may just indicate where in a given press run my copy happened to come from). This makes my 11th Ed. distinctly easier to read than my 10th Ed. In addition, the main entries are now in sans-serif type. This isn't necessarily an aesthetic improvement, but far more important is that it makes finding your word easier on the eyes.
Unfortunately, as with the previous edition, the inner margins are too narrow, forcing one to read the right side of a left-hand page and the left side of a right-hand page from paper that is curving into the crease in the middle of the book; almost nothing short of breaking the binding is likely to counteract this problem.
A personal prejudice I have (that you may not share) is that I believe a dictionary owes its readers more than just a description of how language is currently used. (Some of current usage is in my opinion poor, and a dictionary is the right place to try to stem the tide of poor usage instead of merely describing it.) The Eleventh Edition, like recent previous ones, has many Usage Notes at the end of an entry.
I find these to be by and large too permissive, giving excuses for much questionable usage (while prudently reminding the reader that if they go ahead and employ some usages that M-W deems perfectly acceptable, they may be in for some criticism).
For example, one usage note supports the use of "literally" to mean "virtually". Another usage note supports the pronunciation of "nuclear" as "nucular" (lamely trotting out the fact that it has been used that way by members of many respected professions, including U.S. members of congress and even two U.S. presidents!!!!!).
Another drawback of this book for many is the massive inclusion of technical words like chemical names, and especially the names of a huge variety of plants and animals. This is all well and good in itself, of course. But these words are in most cases useful only to specialists in those fields, and given the limited space available, must necessarily drive out other candidates for inclusion that would be useful to a far larger number of readers...
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on August 4, 2003
This dictionary, MW11 for short, may be the first to list bubkes, coscenarist, or MEGO. Entries now appear in a sans-serif font, basically an improvement, though the abbreviation for Illinois looks absurd.
The cover claims 10,000 new words and meanings, including long ball, peloton, rabbit-eared bandicoot (who would seek that under r rather than b?), dance card, megapixel, qi, ki. So what is missing from the previous edition, MW10? An informal survey of a half dozen pages shows that practically nothing of value is gone (lonelily, pein, Daoist are deleted). Changes include a few new senses, illustrative quotes, revised definitions, and antedatings. The entry for -er now shows beautifuller with double l, in concord with the entry for -ful. There are about 70 more pages; MW10 had only about 5 more than MW9.
The total number of entries should be greeted with skepticism. There are about a thousand undefined entries in a list of "non-" words, more than a thousand in the un- list, and several thousand more in sixteen additional lists. If it occurs to you to seek coscenarist in the co- list, these lists might be of use. There are also a great many highly technical terms, such as ethylenediaminetetraacetate(s); writings that might contain these are apt to contain quite a few terms not found in this or any similar dictionary. Nonetheless, MW11 looks pretty good after a comparison of a few random pages of this dictionary with the corresponding parts of four similarly-priced dictionaries. At least two competitors have such entries as blank endorsement, blankety-blank, terra alba, or blague, but most or all omit such MW11 entries as: term of art, blanket chest, or the adjective terminate. Recently I found the word Atropos in a 1950 New-Zealand/British novel; it's not in MW11 (except in atropine's etymology), but was found in the competitors; on the other hand, only MW11 offers an explanation of what people who quirk this or that in a (usually) British novel are doing.
Definitions are sometimes a little unclear. The 85-word definition for gyroscope is apt to set your head spinning, and you may need to reread it to determine a gyroscope's purpose (I'm not sure it says). There's a sensible usage note for "hopefully", but MW11's appeal to "disjuncts" is less likely to persuade than the competitors' references to "sentence adverbs" or something similar. Many more illustrative examples would help.
One appendix contains foreign words and phrases; it's unclear why "a la mode" or Weltschmerz are in the main listing with "a la page" or Weltbild in the appendix. Other appendices list biographic and geographic entries, so, confronted with an unfamiliar proper noun, you may be unsure where to look. Gretna Green, is that biographical or geographical? (Neither, but MW11 has it nonetheless.) These appendices suit the publisher, since during MW11's life there will be new censuses that affect the geographic entries and deaths, elections, awards, etc., that affect the biographic entries, and Merriam can reset the relatively few pages of the appendices more easily than many pages of the main listing. Nonetheless, it is inconvenient for the user.
The final page contains the addresses for the Language Research Service. The introduction to MW10 informed us that there is no evidence for the form "merer", so years ago I sent the LRS their first citation; it happens that OED provided another, and an Internet search for "even merer" provides four more, but MW11's introduction still claims that there is no evidence for it. LRS is better at providing information; it gave me a Robert Frost citation to accompany my grandaunt's expression "the cat wanted the guest to make of her".
A nice feature is the date of earliest known appearance for each word. MW11 extends this to words like "jehu" that come from a proper name (less clear is why Jehu is in the main listing rather than the biographical appendix), though possibly the date applies to Jehu rather than jehu. Similarly, the date for clueless applies to its literal use, not to the modern idiomatic use whose date might interest you. Definitions are given in date order, so you can usually see how meanings develop over time. Most unfamiliar words have only a single definition, or the unfamiliar meaning you seek may be the oldest, so this is a win-win feature for the user.
The dictionary comes with a wonderful CD (optional at higher price), with which many objections disappear. It is much harder to find coscenarist, bo, ked, or Gretna Green with the print edition than with the CD, which incidentally expands abbreviations. You can locate all entries having a usage note containing the word Scottish. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy way to search for all occurrences of Scottish in definitions, etymologies, and usage notes simultaneously, though there is a cumbersome way to do this with an advanced search. It seems pronunciations aren't searchable beyond rhymes and homophones, so for example you cannot find all words with the rare sound that ends "smooth", or all pronunciations marked with the obelus (division sign) that indicates controversy. (Merriam is invited to add the obelus to the first pronunciation of bruschetta, which deviates from the Italian.) With the CD you can also find the other 27-letter single-word entry, the longest word(s) with no repeated letter, the anagrams of abcdeflos or Minnesota, or all words whose earliest known appearance falls in a particular year (the most recent appears to be 2000, for tanga, the Tajiki "cent"); if solving crosswords, you can find words of the form ?p??m?.
Certainly I would not recommend buying a college dictionary without a CD version. Beyond that it is hard to choose, if you can afford just one. My inclination is that if you are involved in scientific or technical pursuits, this is probably the right one. Otherwise, you may be better off with one of the competitors. I don't recommend owning precisely two dictionaries however; you will need a third as a tiebreak.
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on November 19, 2011
I bought this version of Webster for three reasons: (1) I love my last dozen hard copies since college in 1977; and (2) this one claimed it was compatible with Kindle DX; and (3) because I am an idiot. I wanted an e-dictionary for my Kindle DX that was not only compatible with my Kindle DX but also had "text-to-speech" capacity so that I could actually hear the pronunciation of the word just as one can do on Dictionary.Com. I could find no such dictionary, so I settled for this Webster e-Dictionary.

Big BIG mistake, it is little better than the free default Oxford dictionary that comes with a Kindle, but WORSE, its pronunciation lacked the stress mark over the syllable to be stressed when spoken, much less tildes or umlauts or schwas. RIP OFF. Wait for a true text-to-speech dictionary with full pronunciation (that is also Kindle compatible) rather than buy this piece of mierde.

If anyone out there knows of such, I would be greatly appreciative to be apprised of the source.

Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving,
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on March 16, 2008
I thought this dictionary was decent and served most of its purposes. The problem with purchasing it over the Internet, though, was that I didn't know if it had all of the features I needed.

Therefore, while it is good and has a great many words with concise definitions, the plurals of the words are not listed. I was astonished by this, since I'd never seen a dictionary before that didn't list the plurals! Of course, this was one of the things I needed in a dictionary in order to help me in my grammar class. So while I have a nice dictionary, I am still shocked about the lack of plurals!

So be forewarned if you are considering this dictionary that if you need plural forms of words, you will not find them in this book!
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on November 1, 2004
Great reference and one that I keep on my shelf, next to "The Chicago Manual of Style" (15th edition) and "Gramatically Correct". Although the Scrabble world is still stuck on the 10th edition, that will likely change soon. Great coverage of definitions in addition to grammar and many other references. For college level and above, probably the one to buy.
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on August 3, 2003
This is a very high quality collegiate dictionary. I am a member of a word puzzle organization ... and this is our standard reference, along with the unabridged version, "Webster's Third New International Dictionary". Many very obscure words show up in puzzles, but it is relatively rare I find I have to go to the unabridged dictionary to look them up.
In addition to being thorough (with excellent sections such as biography, geographical names, and foreign words and phrases (such as "en plein jour" or "inshallah") it includes compressed but informative etymological data. For example, the entry on "spacious" has this - ME, fr. AF spacioux, fr. L spatiosus, fr. spatium: space, room (14c)"; in a little over a single line you get a long lineage; though I should mention that this has been slightly corrected since the tenth edition of this dictionary. You may have to learn some of the abbreviations (Middle English, Anglo-French, 14th century) but I found them generally intuitive and didn't need to look them up much at all.
In addition, there are excellent usage paragraphs scattered throughout. These are of two types. One type compares the usage of different words with very similar meanings. For example, the entry on "satiate" provides a usage paragraph that compares "satiate", "sate", "surfeit", "cloy", "pall", "glut" and "gorge", identifying the precise differences of usage between them. The paragraph is cross-referenced at each of the other six words, so you don't have to just stumble across satiate to find it.
The other kind of usage paragraph discusses correctness. A good example is "hopefully", which in its sense "I hope that" is controversial. The dictionary asserts the validity of this controversial use, which is sure to annoy some purists, but it does acknowledge the debate and cite grammatical arguments for its position.
There are quite a few new words (my favourite is "dead-cat bounce") and edits to all sections. The only major change, though, is that the abbreviations section has been eliminated; abbreviations are now included in the main body of the dictionary.
The dictionary is available online at, and I strongly recommend you take a look at it. There is a CD-ROM for sale too, which is worth getting as it adds some fancy search features, though if you're like me you'll want the paper version to keep by the bed. Note that if you have the unabridged MW CD too (the third edition of their New International Dictionary) then the same interface allows you to choose which dictionary to search -- a very nice feature. Purchase of the dictionary also gives you a complimentary year's subscription to the m-w website, which is worth having -- though be warned that it will automatically renew in a year for $ unless you choose to auto-cancel.<I> --This text refers to an edition which conatins a CD-ROM. Not all editions of this item contain a CD. Please check the item desription for further information.--</I>
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