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05 Online dictionaries (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)


This article is from the alt.usage.english FAQ, by Mark Israel misrael@scripps.edu with numerous contributions by others.

05 Online dictionaries (Recommended books - alt.usage.english)

You *cannot* access the OED online, unless you or your
institution has paid to do so. The second edition is copyright, and
allowing public access to it would be *illegal*. A public-access
version of the first edition is conceivable, but I don't know of

The OED is available on CD-ROM for PCs, and server-style for UNIX
systems. For info on obtaining the UNIX version in North America,
phone the Open Text Corporation in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada:
e-mail "info@opentext.com". Don't ask us where to buy the CD-ROM
version: your local bookshop can order it for you. If you want to
submit citations for the next edition of the OED, you can contact
the OED staff directly at "oed3@oup.co.uk".

The online OED is encoded with the Standard Generalized Markup
Language (SGML), which is ISO 8879:1986 and is discussed in obscure
detail on the comp.text.sgml newsgroup. The funny-looking escape
codes beginning with "&" are known as "text entity references". The
ISO has defined a slew of such for use with SGML: publishing
symbols, math and scientific symbols, and so on. A good place to
start learning about SGML is "A Gentle Introduction to SGML" at
<http://etext.virginia.edu/bin/tei-tocs?div=DIV1&id=SG>. There's
also the book "Industrial-Strength SGML: An Introduction to
Enterprise Publishing" by Truly Donovan (Prentice Hall, 1996, ISBN

Merriam-Webster's MWCD10 is publicly accessible at

Project Gutenberg has put out two versions of an unabridged
dictionary published early in this century by the company that is
now Merriam-Webster. One version is in HTML format and comes to 45
Mb when unZIPed. The other is plain text and comes in several ZIP
files with names such as pgwXX04.ZIP, where the XX are the initial
letters of words included. All are available in
<ftp://uiarchive.cso.uiuc.edu/pub/etext/gutenberg/>. They're
also on the Web at <http://promo.net/pg/>.

Any "Webster" dictionary that you find anywhere else on the Net
is probably an out-of-date bootleg. Keep in mind that any
dictionary containing such words as "beat.nik" and "tran.sis.tor" is
too recent to be in the public domain.

The Macquarie dictionary is accessible online at

Roget's Thesaurus (1911 version, out of copyright) is available
The Oxford Text Archive at:
has Collins English Dictionary (1st edition) converted to a Prolog
fact base; the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary; and the MRC
Psycholinguistic Database (150,837 word forms, expanded from the
headwords in the Shorter Oxford, with info about 26 different
linguistic properties). Read the conditions of use for the Oxford
Text Archive materials before using; most texts are available for
scholarly use and research only.

The best "Word of the Day" service is the one run by
Merriam-Webster at <http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/mwwod.pl>; it can
also be subscribed to by e-mail. Other Word-of-the-Day services
are at <http://www.wordsmith.org> (run by Anu Garg, who also
offers dictionary, thesaurus, acronym, and anagram services by
e-mail), <http://www.parlez.com/word-of-the-day>,
<http://www.wordsrus.com>, and


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