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



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.

  • Merriam-Webster (MW) — Company which secured the rights to Noah Webster's dictionary, which was highly influential in the development of American English
  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language – Published by Houghton Mifflin, and developed in part as a reaction to the perceived Webster's Third International Dictionary
  • Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) — Portal to several dictionaries produced by Cambridge University Press
  • Collins — Published by HarperCollins
  • Google (or Bing) Dictionary — Entering define or definition followed by a search-term into the search box will return an entry with its basic definitions, etymology, and an NGram showing the word or phrase's prevalence in the Google Books corpus. Presently these search engines license their definitions from Oxford University Press, making it accurate enough for a quick and convenient check, but "Google" (or "Bing") is not an attributable resource in accordance with our citation policies, because it is not a primary resource and its sources are subject to change. If possible, figure out if you are quoting from the American (New Oxford American Dictionary) or British (Oxford Dictionary of English) version. Otherwise, you can cite "Oxford Languages via Google/Bing".
    • New Oxford American Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary of English are also bundled with recent releases of MacOS X and iOS

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:

Collaborative dictionaries

  • 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.


"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.

1 Many schools and libraries have full access to the OED Online; this is usually also extended to UK residents via their County Library Service or equivalent. 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 that 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 — Renowned lexicographer Jonathan Green dedicated a life's work to the study of slang, compiling at least 55,000 headwords, illustrated by more than 640,451 citations. As of 2019, all citations and advanced search features formerly reserved for subscribers are available to the public for free.
  • 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 that 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.


  • 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" pronunciation of various words, with some alternatives, based on the suggested pronunciation given by major dictionaries. It lacks phonetic transcriptions, definitions, or other notations, however.
  • Youglish - An online pronunciation 'dictionary' that, when searched for a word, gives a set of Youtube videos where the word is spoken (as found in captions), plus the IPA.
  • 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.
  • PronunDict is a free pronunciation dictionary of American English. Its key features are searching by pronunciation and simple wildcard matching. The data source is the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary (CMUdict) or its derivative AmEPD. The disadvantages are that there are some errors in the dictionary entries, and that marking of boundaries of stressed syllables does not always work perfectly.

Legal Dictionaries

  • 5
    Urban Dictionary can be very useful to check first/early definitions and most popular definitions, but of course care must be taken.
    – Hugo
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 18:40
  • 12
    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. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 20:44
  • 4
    Onelook is actually a metalink to other dictionaries and provides no definitions in itself. It is a great starting place.
    – bib
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 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
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 0:15
  • @TheNate Link's broken.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 20:11
  • It is now, yeah. I haven't found a particularly good replacement site, either.
    – The Nate
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 10:34
  • 2
    @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
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 17:22
  • The Thesaurus of English Idioms by George L Nagy 'is the first serious attempt [2006] in the English language to construct a dictionary of synonymous phrases.' I'd suggest that this fills an obvious gap (a thesaurus for idioms), but, though it looks scholarly ('The current collection contains: 21,500 entries, including 12,500 core idioms; 9,000 cross-references with complete explanatory notes; 22,000 example sentences; 100,000 synonymous phrases explaining the idioms') I've never used it. // [This would mean that the 'Thesauri' section, later, would need the modifier '(words)'.] Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 11:26
  • ... The quotes are taken from the BookAuthority.org_59 Best English Idioms Books list. //// Amazon Reviews all appear extremely positive (but after all, it's hardly a demanding concept ... but embodies an awful lot of leg-work). $40, apparently. Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 11:27
  • 1
    ...Lexico is closed... Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 3:31


Useful for finding synonyms of specific words.

  • An answer by user cornbread ninja in 2012 led me to github.com/danielnaber/openthesaurus (currently maintained as of 2023) which is a tool people can use to collaboratively maintain their own thesauri ; that may be useful here.
    – arp
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 16:34


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.

  • English-Corpora.org - Formerly corpus.byu.edu, this is perhaps the most popular corpus search engine, created by Mark Davies at Brigham Young University. Key collections include 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 about 1980 to 1993.

  • British Newspaper Archive: The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and findmypast to digitize up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library's vast collection over the next 10 years.

  • Chronicling America: Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.

  • Corpus of Contemporary American English - the largest freely-available corpus of American English, COCA includes spoken and written American English from a variety of sources from 1990–2017.

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

  • Elephind: Search the world's historical newspaper archives.

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

  • TV Corpus - contains words from 75,000 television episodes from the 1950s to the current time, linked to their IMDb entries, and an excellent source for informal spoken language

  • 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 interface 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
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 17:44
  • 5
    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
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 18:47
  • 4
    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. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 5:17
  • 3
    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
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 17:03
  • 2
    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.
    Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 11:31
  • 2
    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
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 11:40


The guidelines governing the presentation of written English are collectively referred to as style and are 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 due to 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 is 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 in 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.


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.

  • 7
    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. Commented May 18, 2012 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
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 19:29
  • 3
    Style should be off topic! Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    @curiousdannii it depends on what is meant by style. The things in those books are probably fair game, do you think?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 23:49
  • 2
    @Mitch I don't think I've seen a single good style question here. But it is a pet hate. Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 23:51
  • 2
    @choster Nice additions!
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 23:31
  • 1
    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) Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 22:36
  • 2
    Style should be on topic. Stylistic decisions are a subset of word choice and usage decisions. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 15:58
  • @TrevorReid Depending on what one means by style, yes. Style as in "there's a choice for whether to use the diaeresis in 'naive', which style guides do it?" totally on topic. "What style favors using no prepositions at the end of a sentence?" totally on topic. "Should we avoid the passive?" that's opinion based and off topic, but could possibly be rewritten to something like "What is it about the passive that leads writers to want to avoid it?" might be better.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 16:14
  • @Mitch it's the subjectivity that makes that example off-topic rather than it having to do with style. "Would it be beneficial if English made greater allowance for implicit subjects or verbs," is just as off topic even though it clearly concerns the grammatical rule that every sentence must have a subject and a verb. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 16:46

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.

  • 2
    Hello, these are very important resources to help us in polishing English. Is there any source for punctuating the sentences in a better way? Commented May 27, 2016 at 3:21
  • -1 These are not helpful references to Stack Exchange users if they are not online. If they are online (I couldn't find them) this answer should provide links.
    – Bob Stein
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 15:14
  • @BobStein Look man, after the power goes out and before the zombies attack, all ELUers will be playing Scrabble instead of Words with Friends and we'll need some of those old-fashioned paper things to entertain ourselves.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 26, 2023 at 16:32
  • 1
    @Mitch you make a good point. In a more piquant need, recall that early-pandemic shortage of toilet paper.
    – Bob Stein
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 16:50


  • 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 the 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.

For example, 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.

  • 1
    Is terminological innovation a terminological innovation for new term? ;)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 23:07
  • 1
    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. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 23:29
  • 3
    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
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 10:12
  • 2
    @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. Commented Jun 20, 2016 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
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 14:49
  • 2
    @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. Commented Jun 23, 2016 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? Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 14:06
  • 1
    Why does it have to be online? 1852 pages is small enough to hold in your lap. Commented Sep 18, 2016 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
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 5:25
  • 1
    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? Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 13:37
  • Are websites such as Grammar Girl and those belonging to university writing centers considered reputable enough for EL&U?
    – miltonaut
    Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 1:07
  • Grammar Girl isn't. Mignon Fogarty is a nice person and a decent writer, but she's not a linguist or a grammarian -- unless you want to define "grammarian" as somebody who gives grammar advice -- and her advice is often superficial. University writing sites vary enormously, just like writing. Many of them are just pushing the old Latinate zombie rules because they're meant for native speakers who take English's lexical and syntactic complexity as natural, and never mention the actual grammar that learners need to know. In general, anything you read about English grammar on the Web, doubt it. Commented Dec 1, 2018 at 16:58
  • H&P use "integrated relative clause" for "restrictive relative clause" (not that it makes any difference to anything very much). They also use 'particle' for the preposition in a verb + prep idiom, but also refer to them as prepositions. This leads one to think that particle in H&P is a grammatical relation, but they don't specify that anywhere so it's anyone's guess. Commented May 26, 2022 at 21:42
  • I started teaching ESL before the phrase "phrasal verb" got popular; our textbook then called them "two-word verbs" and called the two words the "verb" and the 'particle". Commented May 26, 2022 at 21:58
  • @JohnLawler Are the listed books better than Quirk's?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 9:50


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.

  • 1
    IATE is a fantastic resource for technical language.
    – Nemo
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 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 phrases were said to have at various times in the past. Several of them do not show up in a direct Google Books search 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 General 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)

  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 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
    Commented May 8, 2017 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
    Commented May 9, 2017 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
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 0:34
  • done. feel free to judge and roll back if desired
    – Mitch
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 1:59
  • 1
    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
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 2:08
  • 1
    @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. Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 22:19

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 searches, pictures, and even Shakespeare references. It has links to the Bible books, famous quotes, and several links to specific genres produced by Shakespeare.

The Purdue OWL is an Online Writing Lab for tutoring or learning to write 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 a 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.


Dissection or Parse of Sentences

Courtesy of https://english.stackexchange.com/a/233771/50720, I encountered the Link Parser.



For the word you search, it has:

  • Nouns
  • Adverbs
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Fuzzynyms
  • 1
    can this be categorized somewhere?
    – Erich
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 11:41

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