Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. Newbie
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Morocco
      • Current Location:
      • Germany

    • Join Date: May 2017
    • Posts: 4
    #1

    Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    When I want to know what a word means I look it up in a dictionary. However there are people who define words differently compared to the dictionary. Are these people wrong? Can I tell them: "No, that is not what this word means." and then show them the oxford definition or a definition of another dictionary? You can't say that everyone can define a word for himself right? How are we supposed to communicate with eachother if every word has an individual meaning?

    So my main question is: "Is the (oxford) dicionary absolute?" Absolute in that sense that its definitions are superior to other all other definitions.

  2. Piscean's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 13,678
    #2

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    Lexicographers do the best they can to define words as they are used. It is speakers and writers who give meaning to words; lexicographers simply try to explain what that meaning appears to be.

    The full Oxford English Dictionary is the most comprehensive English dictionary in the world, and is almost certainly the best for the history and dvelopment of words and for the number of citations it gives for the words in use. However, its definitions are not necessarily superior to those in other ditionaries. I have found Webster's Third more helpful sometimes.

    Don't forget that words constantly change in the way they are used. No matter how often they are revised, dictionaries are always slightly behind the times. When a new shade of meaning becomes widely accepted, that new meaning will be recorded in the latest revision of good dictionaries.

    It is probably safe to say that the latest Oxford Dictionary will be an extremely sound guide to the meanings of 99.99% of all words used by native speakers of British English in the period up to a year or two before publication. That is not to say that other dictionaries may not give better definitions of some words.

  3. Newbie
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Morocco
      • Current Location:
      • Germany

    • Join Date: May 2017
    • Posts: 4
    #3

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Lexicographers do the best they can to define words as they are used. It is speakers and writers who give meaning to words; lexicographers simply try to explain what that meaning appears to be.

    The full Oxford English Dictionary is the most comprehensive English dictionary in the world, and is almost certainly the best for the history and dvelopment of words and for the number of citations it gives for the words in use. However, its definitions are not necessarily superior to those in other ditionaries. I have found Webster's Third more helpful sometimes.

    Don't forget that words constantly change in the way they are used. No matter how often they are revised, dictionaries are always slightly behind the times. When a new shade of meaning becomes widely accepted, that new meaning will be recorded in the latest revision of good dictionaries.

    It is probably safe to say that the latest Oxford Dictionary will be an extremely sound guide to the meanings of 99.99% of all words used by native speakers of British English in the period up to a year or two before publication. That is not to say that other dictionaries may not give better definitions of some words.
    Thank you for your answer. Does that mean it is valid to quote from a dictionary be it oxford or webster's third in order to disprove someones definition because the ones of oxford and webster's third are closer to the general meaning of that word? Or do I have to respect and accept any definition in order to understand that person? Can I say a definition is wrong or right?

  4. Piscean's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 13,678
    #4

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    If a person claims that, for exmple, disingenuous means hones., you can use the dictionary to show that they have used the word incorrectly. However, the fact that someone uses a word in a way that is different from a dictionary definition does not necessarily mean that they are using it incorrectly. The usage notes following the definitions of some words in the American Heritage Dictionary frequently show how meanings of words have changed ; people have not stopped using the 'incorrect' meaning because of the dictionary definition. The earlier dictionary definition has not reflected currant usage.

  5. Newbie
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Morocco
      • Current Location:
      • Germany

    • Join Date: May 2017
    • Posts: 4
    #5

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    If a person claims that, for exmple, disingenuous means hones., you can use the dictionary to show that they have used the word incorrectly. However, the fact that someone uses a word in a way that is different from a dictionary definition does not necessarily mean that they are using it incorrectly. The usage notes following the definitions of some words in the American Heritage Dictionary frequently show how meanings of words have changed ; people have not stopped using the 'incorrect' meaning because of the dictionary definition. The earlier dictionary definition has not reflected currant usage.
    So I can only say that a certain definition of a word is wrong if it contradicts with the definition of a dictionary?

  6. Piscean's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 13,678
    #6

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    I didn't say that. If a word is used with a meaning in line with the definitions given in a sound dictionary, we can say that it is being used correctly.

    If a word is not so used, we can, if we are reasonably proficient native speakers, say that it is not used with that meaning in standard English - i.e., it is incorrect. We cannot say for certain that it is incorrect for all speakers in all contexts.

  7. Newbie
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • German
      • Home Country:
      • Morocco
      • Current Location:
      • Germany

    • Join Date: May 2017
    • Posts: 4
    #7

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    I didn't say that. If a word is used with a meaning in line with the definitions given in a sound dictionary, we can say that it is being used correctly.

    If a word is not so used, we can, if we are reasonably proficient native speakers, say that it is not used with that meaning in standard English - i.e., it is incorrect. We cannot say for certain that it is incorrect for all speakers in all contexts.
    Alright, thank you.

    If a word is used with a meaning that is not in line with the definitions given in a sound dictionary, we can say that it is being used incorrectly, right?

  8. Piscean's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 13,678
    #8

    Re: Is the (oxford) dictionary absolute?

    Not necessarily.

Similar Threads

  1. Oxford dictionary
    By anniebobo in forum Pronunciation and Phonetics
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 08-Nov-2016, 17:41
  2. I need the OED (Oxford English Dictionary)
    By Gregory. in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 10-Mar-2010, 09:47
  3. [Grammar] This question comes from The Oxford Dictionary
    By chimsm in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 22-Oct-2009, 16:11
  4. oxford picture dictionary
    By HangmaN in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 01-Nov-2008, 17:23
  5. Something misunderstood of Oxford dictionary
    By belly_ttt in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 03-Dec-2007, 14:17

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •