Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.

What good reference works on English are available, and what kinds of questions are they good at answering?

  • General Reference
  • Grammar:
    Resources for word and sentence formation (morphology and syntax).
  • Dictionaries:
    Resources that describe what individual words mean, how they are pronounced, etc.
  • Thesauri:
    Helps find synonyms and antonyms.
  • Historical Resources:
    References created in the further past.
  • Style:
    Resources that describe different styles (collections of 'rules').
  • Translation:
    Tools that convert to and from English.
  • Corpora:
    Large collections of source text.

12 Answers 12

Dictionaries

Useful for finding definitions, etymologies, pronunciations, and examples of usage.

General-purpose dictionaries

The online dictionaries listed here are broadly suitable for native speakers, providing major definitions and examples, pronunciations (including audio), basic etymology, and some usage notes. Some are among the most commonly cited on English Language & Usage.

Also see

  • New Oxford American Dictionary — bundled with recent releases of MacOS X

  • Wiktionary — a publicly edited dictionary. Like any crowdsourced resource it can be easily manipulated, and its definitions and translations should be taken with caution; by the same token, it is likely to include neologisms and new meanings faster than traditional dictionaries will.

  • Google Dictionary — Although Google no longer maintains a separate dictionary service, entering

define

or

definition

followed by a search-term into the search box will return a short definition, its basic etymology, and an NGram showing the word or phrase's prevalence in the Google Books corpus. The source of the definition is not disclosed, and should be found before quoted here for the purpose of meeting our attribution requrements, but it is usually accurate enough to answer basic questions. Currently, it provides most definitions from the Oxford American College Dictionary.

Learner's dictionaries

A learner's dictionary is geared to the needs of people learning English as a foreign or second language, for example, by providing notes on usage and common errors. Commonly cited on EL&U are the following:

Meta-dictionaries

"Meta-dictionary" is something of a misnomer; it is not a dictionary of dictionaries, but a resource that collects entries from multiple resources in a single place.

  • OneLook — Provides direct links to definitions posted at many other online reference sites.

  • Dictionary.com (Reference.com) — Primarily sourced from the Random House Dictionary for American English and the Collins English Dictionary for British English. Some entries also include additional material from the Online Etymology Dictionary, The Dictionary of American Slang, The American Heritage Idioms Dictionary, and other specialized dictionaries including some medical, legal, and computing sources.

  • The Free Dictionary - Primarily sourced from the American Heritage Dictionary, the Collins English Dictionary, and Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary. Most entries include thesaurus entries from WordNet, Roget's, and others, plus translation suggestions from Collins and Kernerman translation dictionaries.

  • Wordnik — Primarily sourced from the American Heritage Dictionary Fourth Edition, The Century Cyclopedia and WordNet 3.0, but notable for its lengthy lists of related terms and concepts.

  • Fine Dictionary— Searches a few popular dictionaries from around the early 20th century, as well as Wordnet 3.6 with quotations, illustrations and factoids provided alongside the entries.

Historical and dialectical dictionaries

These dictionaries may be helpful for researching word origins and formation, semantic drift, and historical and regional variations.

  • The Oxford English Dictionary (online subscription required1) — The sine qua non of historical dictionaries of English, showing the development of word meanings, including obsolete and obscure meanings.

  • Online Etymology Dictionary — An extensive free compilation of word origins compiled by Douglas Harper, drawing on the OED and other sources.

  • The English Dialect Dictionary, being the complete vocabulary of all dialect words still in use, or known to have been in use during the last two hundred years..., OUP 1898-1905. Compiled by Joseph Wright, the EDD remains a standard in the historical study of dialect.

  • Australian National Dictionary — The standard historical dictionary for words and idioms that originate in Australian English.

  • Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), subscription required - Based on extensive surveys carried out since the 1960s, the DARE is a compilation of words, phrases, and usages which are specific to a particular region of the United States.

  • Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, 1st edition - Shows meanings of various terms specific to Canada, including obsolete and outdated meanings.

  • The Middle English Dictionary — An online searchable version of a 15,000 page dictionary of the same name from The University of Michigan.

  • Johnson's Dictionary Online — Covers one of the most known examples of an early dictionary as we know them: A Dictionary of The English Language written by Samuel Johnson and published in 1755.

  • Emily Dickinson Lexicon — It is useful for studying the poetess' work and early American English. It provides its own dictionary, and the 1844 printing of The American Dictionary of the English Language, which was the final print Noah Webster edited and published the year after he died at the age of 84.

  • DicFro — Provides a starting point to search other resources, like Wiktionary, The Internet Archive's scanned pages of The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (CDC), The Online Etymology Dictionary, Chambers' Encyclopedia, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary and a number of french and Latin dictionaries too. Some of the references are internally stored, but others are merely indexed or query an external site.

  • American Heritage Dictionary has two appendices that give roots of forbears of English words along with their cognates in the PIE and Proto-Semitic languages respectively

  • LexiLogos and more specifically its etymology center is a center for online dictionaries in many languages (the site is in French but that is not needed to use the site).

    1 Many schools and libraries have full access to the OED Online. The third edition is not available in print, only online, but the first two editions have print forms.

    2 The original name, when it started fascicle-by-fascicle publication in the 1880s, was A New English Dictionary On Historical Principles, but by the time the last volume was published in 1928 it was generally known as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), under which name subsequent editions (including facsimiles of the original) have gone.

Idioms, expressions and slang

There are numerous print dictionaries which focus on idioms, including various offerings by Oxford and McGraw-Hill, like the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions.

  • TFD Idioms and Phrases — From TheFreeDictionary, a searchable database of idioms from the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms, the Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms.
  • The Phrase Finder — Provides meanings and origins of numerous English expressions and sayings, with commentary by Gary Martin.
  • Green's Dictionary of Slang — Green’s Dictionary of Slang is the culmination of a life’s work for Green. First published in print as a three-volume behemoth in 2010, to awards and rave reviews, it now emerges in digital form with about 30% ‘revised, augmented and generally improved’. I’ve been beta-testing the website and can report it is a beautiful thing, vast and wondrous, filthy and fabulous, endlessly diverting and eye-opening.
  • OZDIC - Collocation dictionary. Enter a word to find collocations with that word.

By nature, however, slang usage is informal and ephemeral, and difficult to compile into a definitive reference. Most online slang dictionaries must rely on user input, with wildly varying accuracy and reliability. Nevertheless, they are much faster to update than traditional dictionaries, and have dates which help track evolution. Examples include the Online Slang Dictionary, edited by Walter Rader; A Dictionary of Slang by Ted Duckworth; and probably the most popular, Urban Dictionary.

Pronunciation

  • Kenyon and Knott's 1949 A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English — The gold standard for American phonemes.
  • Howdjsay.com — Created by Tim Bowyer, provides audio clips of a "standard British" pronunciations of various words, with some alternatives, based on the suggested pronunciation given by major dictionaries. It lacks phonetic transcriptions, definitions, or other notations, however.
  • Forvo — An online pronunciation dictionary with audio pronunciations submitted and voted on by members. Its goal is "All the words in the world. Pronounced." It has excellent basic coverage of English, with more common words often represented in multiple dialects.
  • 5
    Urban Dictionary can be very useful to check first/early definitions and most popular definitions, but of course care must be taken. – Hugo May 22 '12 at 18:40
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    It should be noted that dictionaries published in the United States do not use standard Kenyon-Knott phonemic transcription, but rather an archaic, unscientific, and ultimately useless pronunciation system invented in the 18th century by Noah Webster. They are thus not suitable for non-native English speakers, nor for speakers of any English dialect except American English. – John Lawler Dec 28 '12 at 20:44
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    Onelook is actually a metalink to other dictionaries and provides no definitions in itself. It is a great starting place. – bib Aug 29 '13 at 19:27
  • For a more classical Webster, check out: machaut.uchicago.edu/websters I consider the examples and etymology more useful, especially for archaic words and literary uses. – The Nate Nov 14 '15 at 0:15
  • @TheNate Link's broken. – NVZ Jan 5 at 20:11
  • It is now, yeah. I haven't found a particularly good replacement site, either. – The Nate Jan 6 at 10:34
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    @TheNate I already covered the dictionaries A.R.T.F.L. Project had with some other resources: Between Fine Dictionary covers Merriam Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (the 1913 dictionary), and the Emily Dickinson Lexicon has a separate tab for the 1844 printing of Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (a later version of the 1828 one). It's a shame to lose the website though, because it had good features, refined presentation, other features like an early Roget's thesaurus and some french stuff, and it was easier to find affixes… – Tonepoet Feb 11 at 17:22

Corpora

Large collections of original source text. The online tools that are available for searching corpora, however, may be overkill for the average user, and may be confusing to use.

  • BYU Corpora - Created by Mark Davies at Brigham Young University, corpus.byu.edu is perhaps the most popular corpus search engine. It provides tools for the following:

  • British National Corpus - the BNC was a project of Oxford University Press covering a diverse range of spoken and written British English from the late 20th century.

  • Corpus of Contemporary American English - the largest freely-available corpus of Aerican English, COCA includes spoken and written American English from a variety of sources from 1990–2015.

  • Corpus of Historical American English - The largest structured corpus of historical English, COHA contains text from American publications from the 1810s to the 2000s.

  • Hansard Corpus - contains nearly every speech given in the British Parliament from 1803-2005.

  • News on the Web (NOW) Corpus - contains billions of words from web-based newspapers and magazines since 2010. Helpful for searches on very recent usage, as millions of words are added daily.

  • Corpus of Online Registers of English - Based on research by Douglas Biber, Mark Davies, and Jesse Egbert, CORE uses more finely tuned categories for sources such as recipe, sermon, travel blog, or interview, allowing for greater context and insights into usage

  • Corpus Concordance English at LexTutor - Conceived by Chris Greaves and built by Tom Cobb at the Université du Québec à Montréal, this website provides a searchable interface to more than three dozen corpora including the BNC, Brown Corpus of American English, the JPU Corpus, and US television dialog compiled by Marlise Horst at Concordia University.

  • Google Books - A service of Google through which over 25 million books have been scanned; while the visibility of copyrighted works is restricted, the size and relative comprehensiveness of the Google Books corpus makes it useful for finding usage examples and historical prevalence. The resource is flawed in that it makes no account of spoken English, and contains numerous OCR and metadata errors leading to skewed results.

  • Google Books Ngram Viewer - A simple interface for comparing the prevalence of words or phrases in the Google Books corpora and charting them as n-grams, as well as comparing results from sub-corpora (for example, comparing the prevalence of a word or phrase in British vs. American English). See the info page for syntax and FAQs.

  • NGrams can be embedded in EL&U posts by selecting Embed Chart, copying the src value from the <iframe> tag, changing interactive_chart to chart, and supplying the resulting URL as the image source.

  • Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English - A searchable corpus of transcripts of academic speeches recorded at the University of Michigan.

  • Fraze.It A service with a more user-friendly interfaces by the creator of YouGlish, which provides over 100 million phrases demonstrating how words are used in context.

  • Are Google Books/Ngrams considered a corpus? – zpletan Apr 11 '12 at 17:44
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    sure, it's the text of 'all' books. You won't get the same kinds of things out it as like COCA or BNC. Also, NGrams has a number of difficulties: poor metadata (wrong dates/authors), OCR errors (FPs and FNs because of misreading), poor dealing with punctuation. – Mitch Apr 11 '12 at 18:47
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    The “general reference” close reason links here, but Ngrams are tricky enough to use well that I would not recommend closing a question just because it's possible to answer with an Ngram. – Bradd Szonye Aug 5 '13 at 5:17
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    Speaking from the layperson's point of view. I don't think the corpora are tools that your average user is familiar with. I have struggled myself to obtain the results I was hoping for. If there could be a type of "for dummies guide" then users and learners alike would be able to successfully exploit these reference instruments. – Mari-Lou A Aug 10 '13 at 17:03
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    I think Google Books needs to be somewhere in the "What's a general reference?" conversation. (For that matter, perhaps Google does, too – although maybe that's considered too obvious?) In a question that says something like "Is throw me into the briar patch a common expression?", the O.P. should probably at least check out where it's been used in books before asking. – J.R. Sep 15 '13 at 11:31
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    The online corpora are fine if you know what you are doing, but can be a little daunting for people who have not used this type of thing before. Those wishing simply to know how native speakers have used a word before may be better off with fraze.it – tunny Nov 5 '14 at 11:40

Thesauri

Useful for finding synonyms of specific words.

Style

The guidelines governing the presentation of written English are collectively referred to as style, and laid out in various rulebooks and manuals. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a uniform presentation, to improve readability and as a mark of professionalism. Some industries, such as screenwriting, use specific formats, but any individual organization or even an individual publication can enforce a house style. If a writer has not been directed to follow a particular style or other guidelines, s/he is encouraged to choose a suitable style and be consistent in its use.

For example, there is consensus that major words in the title of a book should be capitalized, but difference on what constitutes a major word. There is consensus that the publication year of a reference should be included in its citation, but difference on whether it should be indicated with a comma, parentheses, or other punctuation. Hellenic, Greek, and Græcian are all valid words that can be found in a dictionary, but a publication may have specific rules for when each may be used. If a question asks about an area where there is broad consensus, it is likely to be closed for insufficient research.

General Style Guides

Of the most popular general style guides, only Oxford and Chicago are available online, and only with a subscription.

Academic and Scientific Style Guides

  • ACS Style, from the American Chemical Society, is widely used in physical sciences, notably by chemistry and physics journals.
  • The AMA Manual of Style requires a subscription; it is widely used in medicine and healthcare research.
  • APA Style, developed by the American Psychological Association, is widely used in the social sciences. A subscription is required for the style guide, but the citation style is accessible at the Purdue OWL.
  • Bishop Fox Cybersecurity Style Guide, from malicious viruses to viral memes, for security researchers.
  • IEEE Style, from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is based largely on Chicago Style, but with a focus on engineering, particularly computer science.
  • MHRA Style is governed by the Modern Humanities Research Association, and commonly preferred for theses in UK universities.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) Style is widely used in arts and humanities academia. Official MLA Style publications (the Handbook and the Style Manual) are not available online; however, an MLA Formatting and Style Guide is provided by the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University.
  • Scientific Style and Format, the manual for CSE Style, requires a subscription. It is widely used in scientific publishing, especially life sciences.

Journalist Style Guides

Governmental Style Guides

Note: No government of any major English-speaking country attempts to enforce English style or usage as a matter of law or regulation. These guides are published mainly for writers in the employ of the respective governmental office or body.

Other

Older style guides tend to be strongly prescriptive, that is, flatly asserting that certain usages are wrong even if they are widely used and well-understood. Some recommendations or cautions have been transformed and transmitted over the years as "rules" that are rejected by professional writers and linguists alike, such as the prejudice against the passive voice or against ending sentences with prepositions. Therefore, writers must be cautious about the stylistic advice given in popular guides like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, or older editions of Fowler's.

  • 6
    Grammar and Style are completely different categories and should have separate entries. The last three entries on the list above contain no useful information on English grammar, and to say that Strunk and White "has too many controversial rules to be definitive" is a massive understatement. – John Lawler May 18 '12 at 18:46
  • @JohnLawler: Thanks for your comments...please feel free to edit. I realize that grammar and style are not the same, but there is somewhat of a tendency to lump them together. Also, I didn't feel like there were enough entries for either to warrant a single entry. If you know of other resources, please add. – Mitch May 18 '12 at 19:29
  • 3
    Style should be off topic! – curiousdannii Nov 17 '14 at 23:28
  • @curiousdannii it depends on what is meant by style. The things in those books are probably fair game, do you think? – Mitch Nov 17 '14 at 23:49
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    @Mitch I don't think I've seen a single good style question here. But it is a pet hate. – curiousdannii Nov 17 '14 at 23:51
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    @choster Nice additions! – Mitch Dec 4 '14 at 23:31
  • The category, Usage Guides (different from either style or grammar guides) might be useful. This would include Fowler (noted above) and the American equivalent, Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage . (books.google.co.uk/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC) – Robin Hamilton Jun 15 '17 at 22:36
  • 1
    Why is the Chicago Manual of Style not listed as an Academic Style Guideline? It is produced by a university in service of it's academic press. Sure it's widely used, but so is MLA and APA style. – Stella Biderman Nov 27 '17 at 18:14
  • @StellaBiderman Excellent idea...please edit and add that in! – Mitch Nov 27 '17 at 18:25
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    @Mitch do you think it's a better idea to list Chicago as an academic style, or MLA and APA as general style guidelines. All three are widely used outside of academia, and I was taught them in US public elementary school. The question is if this division of style guides is by who uses them or who produces them. I would be in favor of saying that we should go by use, not production, and move MLA and APA to the general style guidelines section – Stella Biderman Nov 27 '17 at 18:28
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    @StellaBiderman Oops, I didn't notice that CMS already exists, and you're asking if it would be appropriate to move it to a different subsection. I personally associate MLA and APA with academic writing, and CMS with general writing. There will always be overlap, but I think the categorization is useful. If you have an article to write for a client, you should use whatever style guide they say, even if it turns out to be universally scorned S&W. It's no crime to use MLA/APA outside of academia even though they are most commonly associated with those areas. – Mitch Nov 27 '17 at 18:37

General Language and English Language Reference

  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, 2nd ed. 2003.
  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd ed. 2010.

Both are written and edited by David Crystal. They should be in every Anglophone classroom in the world, and should be consulted first about questions bearing on English.

All works by David Crystal are trustworthy, but these encyclopedias are really well-organized, and full of useful information.

  • 1
    Hello, these are very important resources to help us in polishing English. Is there any source for punctuating the sentences in a better way? – I don't know who I am. May 27 '16 at 3:21

Grammar

  • McCawley's The Syntactic Phenomena of English. It turns out that the first three chapters of this classic 1998 grammar are available free on Google Books. The rest of the book is not.

This seems to be very good marketing for University of Chicago Press, or whoever made this decision, because it gives a good and useful sample of what's in the book. The first three chapters are the general ones, where the author lays out the methodology, definitions, examples, and tests for syntax. They're all most people need to read; the other chapters are specialized on individual construction types and other issues.

These chapters consist of

1. (pp 1-10) Introduction
2. (pp 11-54) Overview of the Scheme of Syntactic Analysis Adopted Below
3. (pp 55-81) Some Tests for Deep and Surface Constituent Structure

There are useful tree diagrams and excellent example sentences throughout. Anyone familiar with what's in these three chapters has gone a long way toward mastering English syntax.

McCawley's book is very clear, but it is a technical scientific work intended as a college textbook for a year-long course. It's not necessary to understand linguistics to benefit from the book; however, readers will have to understand that spoken English is what grammar, and therefore this book, is about. There is no treatment of spelling, punctuation, or "correct" grammar, for instance; these are not syntactic phenomena, but social ones.

  • Pullum and Huddleston's Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. This gigantic (1860 pages) and magisterial reference book was published in 2002.

Huddleston and Pullum covers everything -- including, for example, a chapter on punctuation by Geoffrey Nunberg -- and introduces a number of terminological innovations that may become widely-accepted in a while; my advice is to be wary of the terminology -- learn it, and learn the alternative terms as well. They are discussed as they are introduced.

E.g, what McCawley calls a "restrictive relative clause", Pullum and Huddleston call an "essential relative clause"; what McC calls a "particle" up in phrasal verbs like pick up, P&H call an "intransitive preposition" up. You will find both sets of terms (among many others, from all over the world) used here on EL&U.

  • Thanks for the link. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal May 4 '15 at 4:21
  • Is terminological innovation a terminological innovation for new term? ;) – Dan Bron Jul 16 '15 at 23:07
  • Substitute term, anyway. I understand Geoff's reasoning, and I like the idea of intransitive prepositions; but the more terminology is introduced, the denser the reading becomes, because you're always having to remember what's what. – John Lawler Jul 16 '15 at 23:29
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    Are you seriously saying that for a question to not be 'off topic', it needs to not be answered somewhere in the 1856 pages of CGEL? Wouldn't this make this forum something like "Bafflingly Obscure Questions That Have Never Been Tackled Publicly In The Prior History Of Grammar and Linguistics"? Is that the true intention of this forum? (By the way, the link you give doesn't work.) – Dunsanist Jun 20 '16 at 10:12
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    @Dunsanist: No, I don't seriously mean that, because I can't understand what it means. There are at least three negatives in in order for a question to not be "off topic", it needs to not be answered in .. CGEL. As Horn says, "Duplex negatio confirmat; triplex negatio confusat." I'm not interested in whether something is 'off topic' here or not, since there are very few useful or consistent standards for that designation. It's political, not intellectual. – John Lawler Jun 20 '16 at 14:25
  • Okay, "Is a question 'off topic' if the answer can be deduced by consulting the 1856 pages of CGEL?" As for 'political'--I would read 'arbitrary', and looking at questions on this forum many are plaintive ones along the lines of "Why was I off topic?" – Dunsanist Jun 23 '16 at 14:49
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    @Dunsanist: don't ask me. I don't know. And I don't care. This is a free service, and its standards are its own business. The problem seems (to me) to be that there are way too many junk questions -- you can make your own definitions -- and it would seem fair if there were some non-judgemental way to get them out of the way. But there isn't any, though people keep trying. – John Lawler Jun 23 '16 at 15:10
  • Is there a legal pdf version of Cambridge Grammar of the English Language that is "available online", or is @JohnLawler (and perhaps ELU) recommending the use of an illegal version of the work? – Alan Carmack Sep 18 '16 at 14:06
  • Why does it have to be online? 1852 pages is small enough to hold in your lap. – John Lawler Sep 18 '16 at 16:53
  • @AlanCarmack: "Is there a legal pdf version of Cambridge Grammar of the English Language that is available online". No, it's not available as an eBook yet. But you can make a request. – Mori Dec 11 '16 at 5:25
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    Quite a few questions on ELU result in non-junk answers which however depend not just on particular grammarians' terminology, but also their analyses. sadly, the answers are often given as being indisputable. Is there a resource spelling out major differences between the more respected grammar books available (including those by Quirk et al, Aarts ...)? A criticism showing weaknesses? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 27 at 13:37

Translation

Dictionaries and Lexica

  • Linguee - a search engine rather than an automatic translator, Linguee allows the user to find words and phrases in context in human-translated works, in addition to an editorial dictionary.
  • bab.la - a language project by Andreas Schroeter and Patrick Uecker and sponsored by Langenscheidt providing 39 bilingual dictionaries for 28 languages.
  • IATE - provides official translations of terminology as used by EU institutions, maintained by the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union.
  • Termium Plus - provides official translations of the Canadian government into Canadian English and Canadian French

Machine Translations

Machine translations are generated by computer software which compares parallel texts produced by human translators and attempts to identify patterns and apply them to submitted text. The result can be helpful for short, simple text, but is often inaccurate, unidiomatic, or flat-out incorrect, and so should be used with caution.

  • IATE is a fantastic resource for technical language. – Nemo Nov 16 '15 at 9:37

Historical Resources

These are books of possible interest to people who are investigating word and phrase origins and want to know what meanings those words or phrase were said to have at various times in the past. Several of them do not show up in a direct Google Books search for them by title; I've run into the hidden ones by chance, while searching for a particular word or phrase that they happen to contain.

Dictionaries before or overlapping Samuel Johnson's


Robert Cawdrey, A Table Alphabetical (1604)

John Bulloker, An English Expositor: Teaching the Interpretation of the Hardest Words Used in Our Language

Henry Cockeram, The English Dictionary: or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words

Thomas Blount, Glossographia: Or a Dictionary Interpreting All Such Hard Words

Thomas Blount, Glossographia Anglicana Nova: Or, A Dictionary, Interpreting Such Hard Words of Whatever Language, as Are Present Used in the English Tongue, with Their Etymologies, Definitions, &c. (1707)

Edward Phillips, The New World of English Words, or a Generall Dictionary

Edward Phillips & John Kersey, The New World of Words: or, Universal English Dictionary

Elisha Coles, An English Dictionary, Explaining the Difficult Terms That Are Used in Divinity, Husbandry, Physick, Philosophy, Law, Navigation, Mathematicks, and Other Arts and Sciences

Stephen Blancard, The Physical Dictionary: Wherein the Terms of Anatomy, the Names and Causes of Diseases, Chirurgical Instruments, and Their Use, Are Accurately Describ'd

John Kersey, Dictionarium Anglo-Britannicum: Or, A General English Dictionary

John Kersey, A New English Dictionary: or, A Compleat Collection of the Most Proper and Significant Words, and Terms of Art Commonly Used in the Language

Nathan Bailey, An Universal Etymological English Dictionary

Bailey, Dictionarium Britannicum: Or a More Compleat Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1730)

Nathan Bailey, An Universal Etymological English Dictionary, Containing an Additional Collection of Words (Not in the First Volume)…Vol. II

Nathan Bailey, [The New Universal Etymological English Dictionary

Thomas Dyche & William Pardon, A New General English Dictionary

E. Chambers, Cyclopædia; Or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences [predecessor to Encyclopedia Britannica]

Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language


Slang dictionaries and glossaries before or overlapping 1900

Richard Head, "Canting Vocabulary," in The English Rogue, Described, in the life of Meriton Latroon (pages 47–53) (1665)

G.L., "A Canting Academy or Pedlars-French Dictionary," in The Amorous Gallant's Tongue Tipped with Golden Expressions (pages 111–118) (1674/1741)

B.E., New Dictionary of the Canting Crew (1699)

Charles Hitching, "The names of the Flash Words now in Vogue amongst Thieves," in The Regulator (pages 19–20) (1718)

Dr. Saman, "The Compleat Canting Dictionary," in Aristotle’s Legacy, or His Golden Cabinet of Secrets Opened (pages 145–156) (1720)

A New Canting Dictionary (1725)

Francis Grose, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

Francis Grose & George Cruikshank, Lexicon Balatronicum: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811)

Francis Grose, A Provincial Glossary: With a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions

Gradus Ad Cantabrigiam: Or, A Dictionary of Terms: Academical and Colloquial, or Cant, Which Are Used at the University of Cambridge

George Andrewes, A Dictionary of the Slang and Cant Languages (1809)

The Flash Dictionary (1821)

Jon Bee [John Badcock], [Sporting Slang]

Bemjamin Hall, A Collection of College Words and Customs

George Matsell, Vocabulum or Rogue’s Dictionary (1859)

John Hotten, A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words aka The Slang Dictionary

Richard Fox, Slang Dictionary of New York, London and Paris (ca. 1880)

Albert Barrère & Charles Leland, A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant

John S. Farmer & W. E. Henley, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present

James Maitland, The American Slang Dictionary (1891)

  • If a resource list of this type is indeed of interest to other EL&U users, I will supplement this answer with lists of old slang dictionaries, proverb collections, and British regional glossaries that I have come across over several years of researching questions asked at this site. – Sven Yargs Dec 16 '16 at 23:02
  • The redundancy in these entries is hurting both my eyes and the engineering part of my brain. Would you mind if I edited to, for example, have a single entry for Sam Johnson, with two links, one for each volume? – Mitch May 8 '17 at 21:53
  • @Mitch: The reason I included multiple editions for various dictionaries is so that people trying to establish how a definition changed over time or when a word first appeared in one of these series will be able to take a fairly granular approach to those questions. Many definitions remain the same from edition to edition, of course, but some change, and how they change can be interesting (to me). But I already have all of these links, so I don't need it. If you think that EL&U users are likely to find a list with one edition of each title more useful than a list with multiple editions... – Sven Yargs May 9 '17 at 0:31
  • ...spread across multiple decades, I'm not inclined to argue the point. I suppose that each of us tends to provide the material that seems personally most useful—and in my case, that isn't a good guide to how other people see things. So, this being a community wiki question and answer, I think you should feel as unconstrained in altering my answer as I felt in posting it. – Sven Yargs May 9 '17 at 0:34
  • done. feel free to judge and roll back if desired – Mitch May 9 '17 at 1:59
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    Your revised layout looks great, Mitch. I had imagined that you wanted to cut the entries back to a single link per dictionary, but you've retained all the links and yet made them much cleaner and easier to identify by date and edition. Thanks very much for the improved presentation. – Sven Yargs May 9 '17 at 2:08
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    @Sven Yargs The list of pre-1800 slang dictionaries would run: Harman (1567); Dekker (1608); Richard Head (1665 and 1672); B.E. (1699); New Canting Dictionary (1725); Grose (1785 and later editions). Grose splits into Grose 1-3 (the three which Francis Grose was himself responsible for); 1812 ("buckish slang") and 1823 (Egan). All of these are available in one form or another online. I could provide links, if you think these would be useful. – Robin Hamilton Jun 15 '17 at 22:19

Okay, I guess I should have added my answers here instead of above in the comments. So, I'll try again.

Dictionary.com gives all the source references on one page, from English and slang to science, computing, and medical dictionaries, including History and Origin, all from specific dictionaries. It includes nearby words, related searches, and all words from the root.

RhymeZone.com gives rhymes, thesaurus, similar sounding words, quotations, homophones, letter matching search, pictures, and even Shakespeare references. It has links to the Bible books, and famous quotes, and several links to specific genres produced by Shakespeare. I use this site almost daily.

The Purdue OWL is an Online Writing Lab for tutoring or learning to writing well in English. I recommend taking a look, also, at the OWL site map to see the range of subjects covered.

I recommend the site EngVid for clearing up questions about grammar rules, and other English language dilemmas. There are videos for over 500 subjects on that site, all related to English. Some people learn better through watching demonstrations on whiteboard. These videos work well for tutoring, too.

I also believe you need a link to the Middle English Dictionary. It may be an obscure language, but we still study the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, and John Gower's Confessio Amantis.

Lexipedia:

For the word you search, it has:

  • Nouns
  • Adverbs
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Fuzzynyms
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    can this be categorized somewhere? – erich May 9 '15 at 11:41

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