I have already Oxford Advanced Learner´s Dictionary, which I use at my home, but I want another one to my office. So I decided to take rather American dictionary but which one? After reading some reviews my favourites are:

  1. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition


  1. Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary

number 2 is longer and has more definitions, but generally what is the difference? What is more appropriate? Because when I read books about English grammar, authors recommend that first one - Collegiate, never recommend second one. Why?

I´m level C1, btw.


  • 2
    I believe the Collegiate dictionary is intended for native speakers, while the Advanced Learner's dictionary is intended for people for whom English as a second language. One difference is that the Advanced Learner's Dictionary tells you whether a noun is countable or non-countable, while the Collegiate Dictionary does not. Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 13:09
  • 1
    Be aware that some dictionaries list senses in the order they are deemed to have arisen ('historical dictionaries') rather than in the order of idiomaticity that surveys suggest. This is often a disadvantage for everyday use. AHD is a fine dictionary that indicates default ... less common senses clearly. // As has been said elsewhere on ELU (/Meta), OED (though itself a historical dictionary), surveying usage all over the Anglophone world, may be argued to be the best dictionary for US usages also. Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 17:10
  • Ideally you use more than three and discard the resulting outliers unless you're looking to cherry pick a definition.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 8, 2021 at 0:30
  • Why is this question in the meta but not in the main site?
    – Ooker
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) is now eighteen years old, and—as far as I know—Merriam-Webster has no immediate plans to issue an updated Twelfth Collegiate. The gap is striking, since previous editions of the Collegiate series tended to come out at ten-year intervals. Here are the dates of release of the eleven editions of the Collegiate Dictionary:

First edition: 1898

Second edition: 1910

Third edition: 1916

Fourth edition: 1931

Fifth edition: 1936

Sixth edition: 1949

Seventh edition: 1963

Eighth edition: 1973

Ninth edition: 1983

Tenth edition: 1993

Eleventh edition: 2003

So the longest previous gaps between editions were fifteen years between the third and fourth editions, fourteen years between the sixth and seventh editions, and thirteen years between the fifth and sixth editions. It is also noteworthy that the backbone of all editions of the Collegiate Dictionary since the seventh edition (1963) has been Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961), which is now sixty years old. The release dates of major revisions of this full-size dictionary and its predecessors going back to Noah Webster's first An American Dictionary of the English Language are as follows:

An American Dictionary of the English Language: 1828

An American Dictionary of the English Language, second edition: 1840

An American Dictionary of the English Language. new revised edition: 1847

An American Dictionary of the English Language, royal quarto edition: 1864

Webster's International Dictionary: 1890

Webster's New International Dictionary: 1909

Webster's Second New International Dictionary: 1934

[Merriam-]Webster's Third New International Dictionary: 1961

Meanwhile, new editions of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language have appeared in the following years:

First edition: 1969

Second [College] edition: 1982

Third edition: 1992

Fourth edition: 2000

Fifth edition: 2011

A couple of years ago, the consultancy where I work as a freelance editor switched its in-house dictionary from the Eleventh Collegiate to the fifth-edition AHDEL, specifically because the staff editors there were concerned that the Eleventh Collegiate was falling out of date and was less likely than the AHDEL to be refreshed in the near future. We shall see whether a sixth edition of AHDEL comes out in the next two or three years and justifies that decision. In any case, AHDEL fifth edition is eight years younger than the Eleventh Collegiate.

All of the many U.S. publishing houses that I've worked for over the years have used either the Merriam-Webster Collegiate series or AHDEL as their in-house dictionary. Another major U.S. dictionary option is [Random House] Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (2001), which is an update of earlier full-size Random House dictionaries (from 1966, 1987, and 1993).

  • Be very careful with the pronunciations given in American-published dictionaries. The gold standard is Kenyon and Knott's Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, which is available online. American dictionaries don't use IPA English phonemes; they use some version of the 18th-century system invented by Noah Webster that involves macrons, half-macrons, italics, breves, and a dozen versions of each vowel. Every dictionary has their own variant; consequently nobody ever learns it. Use K&K if you're not a native speaker. Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 23:06

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