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Humanities Libertexts

4.4: Using Reference Tools

The Dictionary

Select a Dictionary That’s Right for You

With so many different dictionary options out there, this video offers good advice in finding one that fits your personal needs. Though this video only addresses print dictionaries, the same principles apply to online dictionaries, as well.

Selecting the Right Meaning of the Word

Once you’ve found the dictionary that you find most helpful, you’ll still need to be able to determine how to know which of multiple definitions is the one you need at a given time.  This video helps you make that determination, and also demonstrates the common features that dictionary definitions include to help you.

The Thesaurus

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Unlike a dictionary, a thesaurus will not provide a definition of the word you look up.  Instead, it offers a collection of synonyms–words with similar meanings.  It may also offer a list of antonyms–words with opposite meanings.

Sometimes reading a dictionary definition for a word only gets us partial understanding of a word, especially if we encounter it used in a new way in our reading.  Checking a thesaurus for that word will help us develop a broader sense of how the word might be applied in this particular situation.

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