Comparison of English dictionaries

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These tables compare modern and notable English dictionaries, split by market segment. Unless noted after the edition number, all are single-volume works.


These dictionaries generally aim for extensive coverage of the language for native speakers. They typically only cover one variety of English, either British or American.

Note that the publisher's definition of an entry differs. Some publishers count derivatives as separate entries while others count expressions consisting of more than one words as separate entries. The number of entries is a marketing term that should never be used to compare dictionaries.

As an example, the 6th Edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (SOED6, 2007) contains approximately:

  • 104,000 entries (where only the word "back" is listed.)
  • 125,000 entries when parts of speech are separately listed ("back" is listed 5 times, 2 times as a noun, as an adjective, as a verb, and also as an adverb.)
  • 172,000 entries when derivatives are also counted.
  • 600,000 entries when different meanings (12 meanings for the first "back" noun listing alone) and phrases (at the back of, back and edge, behind one's back etc) are also counted.

The 2nd Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) includes more historical entries because it also lists words that have been obsolete for centuries (back to the 7th century) due to changes in meaning and orthography. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary only covers usage back to the 18th century.

Learner's dictionaries typically contain 40,000 to 50,000 words, which is half to one third of the current usage, but still claim hundreds of thousands of "entries".

Title Publisher First published Latest edition Year Pages Entries (approx.) Main accent Pronunciation guide
Webster's Third New International Dictionary Merriam-Webster 1961 3rd (ISBN 0-87-779201-1) 2002 2,783 263,000 American Diacritical
Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Oxford University Press 1895 2nd (20 vols., ISBN 0-19-861186-2) 1989 21,730 291,500 British IPA
Oxford Dictionary of English Oxford University Press 1998 3rd (ISBN 0-19-957112-0) 2010 2,112 355,000 British IPA
New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) Oxford University Press 2001 3rd (ISBN 0-19-539288-4) 2010 2,096 350,000 American Diacritical
American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1969 5th (ISBN 0-547-04101-2) 2011 2,074 70,000 American Diacritical
Collins English Dictionary HarperCollins Publishers 1979 11th (ISBN 0-00-743786-2) 2011 1,920 130,000 British IPA


These dictionaries generally contain fewer entries (and fewer definitions per entry) than their full-size counterparts, but may contain additional material, such as biographical or geopolitical information, that would be useful to a college student. They may be revised more often and thus contain more up to date usage. Sometimes the term collegiate or college is used merely to indicate a physically smaller, more economically printed dictionary.

Title Publisher First published Latest edition Year Pages Entries (approx.) Main accent Pronunciation guide
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Merriam-Webster 1898 11th (ISBN 0-8777-9809-5) 2003 1,664 165,000 American
American Heritage College Dictionary Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2002 4th[1] (ISBN 0-547-24766-4) 2010 1,664 American
Webster's New World College Dictionary Webster's New World (John Wiley & Sons) 1953 4th[2] (ISBN 0-7645-7125-7) 2004 1,736 163,000 American Diacritical
Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary Microsoft 2000 1st (ISBN-13: 978-0312280871) 2001 1,728 320,000+ American


These dictionaries generally contain fewer entries than full-size or collegiate dictionaries, but contain additional information that would be useful to a learner of English, such as more extensive usage notes, example sentences or phrases, collocations, and both British and American pronunciations (sometimes multiple variants of the latter). In addition, definitions are usually restricted to a simpler core vocabulary than that expected of a native speaker. All use IPA to indicate pronunciation.

Title Publisher First published Latest edition Year Pages Usage examples (approx.) Main dialect
Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary Merriam-Webster 2008 1st (ISBN 0-87779-550-9) 2008 2,032 160,000 American
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Pearson-Longman 1978 6th (ISBN 1-408-21533-0) 2015 2,082 165,000 British
Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners Macmillan Education 2002 2nd (ISBN 1-4050-2526-3) 2007 1,872 British
Collins COBUILD Advanced Dictionary Collins Cobuild 1987 7th (ISBN 9781424027514) 2012 2,080 British
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary Cambridge University Press 2003[3] 4th (ISBN 9781107619500) 2013 1,810 British
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary Oxford University Press 1948 9th (ISBN 0-19-479900-X) 2015 1,796 85,000 British


  1. ^ The 2010 "4th edition" of The American Heritage College Dictionary (ISBN 0-547-24766-4) is the second revision of the original "4th edition" published in 2002; it was originally derived from the 4th edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which was published in 2000.[1]
  2. ^ The 2004 "4th edition" of Webster's New World College Dictionary (ISBN 0-7645-7125-7) includes a CD-ROM; it is based on the original 4th edition published in 1999.[2]
  3. ^ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary was originally published as Cambridge International Dictionary of English in 1995.