- The Meaning of a Dictionary
- Introduction to Dictionary
- Important Information about a dictionary
- 12 Important Aspects Found in a Dictionary and Their Usage
- 5 Dictionary Use Skills
The post was originally posted on Wednesday, 8 March 2017. The previous topic was 'Stating Directions - Part 2'
The topic addresses the general use of a dictionary and the focus on how to guide students to effectively use the dictionaries in finding the meaning and other related aspects of a dictionary as far as English Language learning is concerned. Read the Original Post Here.
THE MEANING OF A DICTIONARY
Dictionary is a book that gives a list of words in alphabetical order and explains their meanings in the same language. Swahili Dictionary, English Dictionary, Swahili - English Dictionary, English - English Dictionary, English - French Dictionary, or German - English Dictionary. (Longman: Contemporary English, Full Colour, Pearson, 2003. p.432)
A book that explains the words and phrases in a particular subject. A Science Dictionary, Biology Dictionary, or Computer Dictionary. (Longman: Contemporary English, Full Colour, Pearson, 2003. p.432)
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT A DICTIONARY
To use dictionaries effectively, the dictionary user should understand the following information:
 The purpose of a dictionary.
 The layout of a dictionary.
 Awareness of the alphabetical sequence of the dictionary entries.
 The Usage of a particular dictionary.
 The layers of explanation offered in the dictionary.
 Use of the timer to increase the speed of finding and processing the information obtained in a dictionary
IMPORTANT ASPECTS FOUND IN A DICTIONARY AND THEIR USAGE
Apart from getting core information like meanings and definitions, the following aspects are also found in a dictionary:
 Entry word/headword
 Part-of-Speech label
 Other forms of the headword
 Word origin
 Special-Usage Labels
 Related word forms
 Plysemous/Multiple meanings
These elements are explained below:
 Entry word/Headword. This shows how the word is spelled and divided into syllables for some dictionaries. It also shows variant spellings.
An example of an entry word is bed
 Pronunciation. Phonetic symbols and diacritical marks show how to pronounce the entry word. Some of the phonetic symbols appear on every first page of a dictionary.
Example. An entry word bed is pronounced /bed/
 Part-of-speech-label. This tells whether the entry word is used as noun, verb and so forth. When a word can be used as than one part of speech, definitions are grouped by part of speech.
For example, an entry bed is labelled as noun. /bed/ n
Other examples, the headwords increase can be used as (vi) and (vt).
 Other forms of the headword. Headword forms in terms of the spellings, singular and plural forms. Comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs are shown as well.
Examples: Other forms of the headwords bed are: (phrases) single/double bed, go to bed, make your bed, time for bed, before bed, and others.
 Word origin. (Etymology). This shows where he word comes from. Some words come from Middle English, some come from Latin and so on. Thus, some dictionaries tend to give out this information.
 Definitions. If a word has more than one meaning, the meanings are numbered or lettered.
Example: bed /bed/ n [C, U] a piece of furniture that you sleep on.
 Special-usage labels. These labels identify special meanings or special uses of the word. Here, archaic indicates an out-dated meaning. In some dictionaries, a word can be labelled ‘Law’ because it is mostly found in the field of law.
Other examples: bed /bed/ n [C, U]. 'C' means that a headwords can be countable noun like beds, and 'U' means that a headwords can be uncountable noun as well.
 Examples. Word, sentences, or phrases show how the entry word is used in various circumstances.
She got into bed early.
He got out of bed late.
You should go to bed now.
Take the medicine before bed.
 Related word forms. Other forms of the entry word are listed. Usually these are phrases, compound words, or are created by the addition of suffixes.
Examples: bed: related words: Camp bed, double bed, four-poster bed, sofa bed, twin bed, bedroom, bedside, etc.
 Plysemous/Multiple meanings. Some headwords have multiple meanings, more than one meaning.
For example, the headword bed /bed/ n has more than 5 meanings:
1.Sleep: a piece of furniture that you sleep on.
2.Sex: used to refer to having sex
3.River: flat ground at the bottom of the river.
4.Garden: area prepared for plants to grow.
5.Rock: a layer of rock
 Synonyms. Words with similar or the same meanings. These words may appear at the end of the entry. This illustration below shows some synonyms:
Examples: Synonyms for the headword bed /bed/ are: bedstead, berth, bunk, cot, couch, crib, mattress, etc.
 Antonyms. Words with opposite meanings. These words may appear at the end of the entry. This illustration below shows some antonyms:
Examples: Antonyms for the headword go are: stay, stop, and return.
DICTIONARY USE SKILLS
The following are the activities and skills which can help the English language learner to use dictionary effectively:
A. PRONUNCIATION DRILLS
These drills aim at attaining the correct pronunciation of English words. Most dictionaries indicate the pronunciation forms of each headword. The language learner has to practice a lot in order to have better pronunciation of each English word. Additionally, language learners can listen to audio-visual recordings to clearly experience how English words are correctly pronounced.
B. SPEEDY WORD SEARCH
This is a game in which a teacher or another student calls out a word, and the student(s) must find the word as quickly as possible.
C. MYSTERY WORD SEARCH
This is a game in which the students are given a series of clues about words. When they hear the clues of a certain word, they look for the word in the dictionary.
Clues: I begin with the fourth letter of the alphabet. My second letter is an “o.” I am one syllable word. I can protect you at night and hunt for you. The students should look for a word which match these Clues.
The answer is ‘dog’
More exercises like this are needed to find the correct words in the dictionaries, hence increasing more vocabulary.
Clues: My word begins with “h”. It is something we wear and it is one syllable word.
The answer is “hat”
Clues: My word ends with “th”. It begins with the second letter in the English alphabet. Without doing it, our body looks bad.
The answer is “bath”
Clues: My word has the letters “ctu” in the middle. It is something we like to do when we have cameras.
The answer is “picture”
Clues: My word ends with “fe”. It is an object used to cut objects.
The answer is “Knife”
Clues: My word begins with “Lo”. It is something that carries heavy loads. It is driven.
The answer is “Lorry”
D. KEEPING A NOTEBOOK OF NEW WORDS
In learning foreign language like English, some activities should not be ignored. One of them is to have each student keep a notebook of new words (vocabulary). This is a nice activity to do daily or a few times a week. It is also good for handwriting practice. Each day, each student finds a word in the dictionary that he/she doesn't know. Then he/she writes the word, its definition, and example sentences in his/her notebook. Application of words is required. Students should apply the newly acquired words in various contexts like sharing with their others in morning talks, debates, and discussions.
E. MAKING UP NEW WORDS
Students can participate in making up a list of new words with their definitions.
As a practice, each student write a new word with its definition on a piece of paper and affix it on a class Noticeboard. Or if the class is big, few students can be selected or do this activity in pairs or groups.
A class should make a list of the new words and their definitions. The class should be encouraged to use the new words in everyday conversation.
Apart from learning dictionary use skills, students can develop various skills like; Outlining skills, Sentence Writing skills, and summarisation skills.
Learning Dictionary Use is important for Secondary school students especially Form One Students. Dictionary aspects like meaning, pronunciation, spelling, and grammar have to be emphasised.
Parents and guardians should also be encouraged to have dictionaries at home for make learning process even easier for students.