I would like to find a dictionary book which classifies nouns by category: animals, food, part of body, location, etc.

I found lists on Internet, but they are too small and the number of categories are very limited. Ex: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/wordlist/

A dictionary could offer more specific categories. For example, "car" or "book" (type of book), etc.


2 Answers 2


What you are looking for is a topical dictionary. These were, apparently, more common in the past, before the great advantages of alphabetization were fully understood, but you can still find them in modern times.

One that might work for you is Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary by Marc McCutcheon. The Amazon review says:

Rather than the alphabetical arrangement found in dictionaries and thesauruses, the words here are grouped according to general categories, such as animal and insects, food and drink, the human body and mind, and occupations. Within these broad areas are subheadings--"environment" has been divided into 30 categories ranging from atmosphere to wind. The word listings in these short sections are alphabetical, and while each has a straightforward explanation, you won't find alternative spellings, a pronunciation guide, or any of those dictionary-standard accompaniments to the definition.

You may also be able to find it through your library; the WorldCat listing is here.

Note that this includes words of various types of speech, not just nouns. Also, you would probably want to combine this with a traditional dictionary, for things like pronunciation guides and more extensive definitions that this book lacks.

Some thesauruses are also organized this way; I used to have one called The Word Finder that I really liked. It is now out of print, though, and may have been primarily for adjectives and adverbs.

If you have access to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary1, you can also use this wonderful tool for your purposes:

  • From the home page, click on the "Categories" link (just below the main search box) to browse words by subject, usage, region, or origin. This will take you to a page showing the various main categories.

    • Subject categories include things like Arts, Law, Sport & Leisure, and Transport.
    • You can click on one of these, or hovering over them will show you sub-categories; for example, hovering over "Consumables" takes you to "Food and Cooking".
  • Once you have clicked on a category or sub-category, you will see a list of results.

  • You can narrow these down further by using any of the "Refine your search" options (to the right of the results, on my screen).

    • These include narrowing by Part of Speech as well as things like Language of Origin and Date of First Citation. Click on Part of Speech and select "Nouns".
    • Another very useful refinement is "Usage" which has options like "archaic", "rare", and "colloquial and slang". Not all words have such a usage tag (and I haven't figured out a way to exclude certain usages), but if you especially want rare words or insults, this is a great feature.

You can also use the "Advanced Search" feature and pre-select all of these categories, rather than narrowing sequentially.

1 Note that the OED is not the same thing as the Oxford Dictionaries Online; the OED Online is a paid subscription service. However, many libraries and institutions of higher learning have subscriptions, so you may be able to access it that way. You can learn more on the OED's page about library access, or ask at your school or local library. If you don't have institutional access, you can look into subscribing here.


What you're getting on-line is as good as it gets. A normal dictionary will sometimes tag nouns with some category like 'military' or 'medical'. But that depends on the dictionary.

A more comprehensive source is Wordnet. This gives all the relations that a particular word has with other words (both links to synonyms, and qualifying nuances, which are like the categories you're asking about.

Also, a dictionary (and Wordnet) is a reference meaning you start with a word and wonder things about it and go to the dictionary as a resource to explain that single word. I have a feeling you're looking for something slightly different which is a learning source. You would like to study all the words in a given category, for example words for operating a laptop, or words labeling items in an automotive repair shop. That's what the categorized word lists on-line get you and you just have to keep seeking until you find the one you like (or extend them yourself as you find them).

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