Dictionary.com just got a lot worse. For example, looking up helium gives you entries from four dictionaries, labeled "American", "British", "Scientific", and "Cultural", but nowhere on the page can one find the names of the dictionaries the entries are from.

Some, but not all, pages are suffixed with:

Definitions and idiom definitions from Dictionary.com Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

But the content in the "British" tab clearly matches that of the Collins English Dictionary, yet the word "Collins" is nowhere to be found.

Internet Archive (you might have to turn JavaScript off) reveals the content in the "Scientific" and "Cultural" tabs is from The American Heritage Science Dictionary and The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, respectively, but it seems preposterous to have to do this every time just to learn the source of a definition (and it could become increasingly difficult as they might add, remove, or swap dictionaries).

So you might want to refrain from citing Dictionary.com, especially the content under tabs other than "American" (which is presumably always Dictionary.com Unabridged), while this problem persists. I'd be surprised if not revealing the source was consistent with the agreement they had with the licensers, so hopefully it won't be long.

1 Answer 1


The advice "don't use Dictionary.com" at best will reach only a fraction of our Meta users and not the majority. Therefore, I suggest the following:

  • Always cite the most specific source you can. For example, if you know the information is from Random House, cite that (however I'm not so sure from just the copyright notice alone).
  • You can (and should) edit other people's posts to add more specific attribution.
  • While not ideal, the bare minimum that's acceptable would be attributing "Dictionary.com" or giving a link to it.

Sidebar: It seems unlikely that they'll change it to add a specific source when Google has been only attributing "Oxford Languages" (if that) for its definitions (which are really from NOAD/ODE).

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