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'Best Online Language Tools for Word Nerds'; Century Dictionary

Posted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:37 am
by Erik_Kowal
Today I ran across this useful article, which contains links to a great many online dictionaries of all kinds, quite a few of which I had not come across before. The reader responses contain many further recommendations regarding useful sites.

One that particularly caught my eye was for the online version of the unabridged Century Dictionary dating from 1914, which is both lavishly illustrated and fully text-searchable.

The person recommending it describes it as follows:

"The multivolume unabridged Century Dictionary is available online in its glorious entirety, totally free. Download the DjVu plugin from the dictionary's home page to zoom and view any page of this lexicographical wonder of the world. You can search by head word, and because the site shows you the actual page, you can easily examine the words above and below your search result in case those words are helpful to you.

My three favorite features of the Century are that each word is treated separately (no hunting for what head word the word you want might be filed under), that definitions are liberally supported by examples of use from both classic and contemporary literature, and that the illustrations are both apt and elegant. Wikipedia has a glowing article on the Century.

The Century Dictionary particularly comes in handy when I'm reading 19c. and early 20c. books via books.google.com. The newer dictionaries (even some of the fancy comprehensive online ones) are anemic and wet-behind-the-ears when it comes to cataloging and defining the good, solid words of the English language."

Having now installed the plug-in myself, I share the recommender's enthusiasm for this delightful work. One useful feature I've noticed that is largely absent from most other dictionaries is that it also lists words in other languages which are cognate with the headword.