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on 1 January 2005
This is probably the definitive dictionary to find in popular use. The 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary sets the overall standard, but a 20 volume set is rarely going to be found outside a library. No, for the literate domestic user, for the professional writer, for anyone with a love of words, the "Shorter Oxford" is the gold standard in dictionaries.
'Shorter', in this instance, means two volumes and a CD-ROM. 'Shorter', in this instance, means that as well as comprehensive definitions of each word, you also get a history of the language - when was the word first recorded in use, examples of quotations, examples of changing usage, and even some pronunciation help from the CD-ROM.
The range of words included in the two volumes should more than satisfy anyone but the odd specialist scholar. There is a wide range of scientific words - including floccinaucinihilipilification, a word made famous by television quiz games a few years ago. There is extensive coverage of non-English English. You'll find recent additions to the language - 'Taliban', and 'Prozac', and 'Jedi'. You even get 'grassy knoll', 'road rage', 'snail mail', and 'text message'. These last four demonstrate how quickly words and phrases can be absorbed into everyday usage - and 'grassy knoll' reminds you that words don't just have a definition, they have a context.
It's here that the "Shorter Oxford" exerts its authority and establishes its pre-eminent role as the best dictionary available to the general public. It doesn't just provide sound definition - a lot of excellent dictionaries do that. The "Shorter Oxford" delivers an authoritative description and analysis of the word in context, going beyond comprehensive definition. If you love words, there is endless enjoyment in simply sitting reading this dictionary. I regularly pluck a volume off the shelf to check a meaning ... then find myself engrossed. Get a life? Try looking that up in the dictionary.
Not the cheapest of packages, but undoubtedly the best. This is the dictionary to which you should aspire. Beautifully printed (though you may find you need glasses to read the small print), highly accessible, fine quality paper (flimsy, yet very durable), and with that added cachet of gravitas and intellectual respectability which will impress visitors! Combining CD-ROM and books makes this a doubly useful package - the two volumes will not fit comfortably on your average desk-top, and certainly not in a drawer, but having the CD running while you write at your computer is very useful. A substantial package, not portable by any means, but solid and homely, and a treasure to own.
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on 20 December 2003
When I say these tomes (yes, there are 2 of them: A - M and N - Z) are 'tremendous' I'm using the word in sense 1) "majestically impressive" and sense 2) "extremely large or good, very considerable or substantial, excellent; remarkable, extraordinary" - according to the definitions in tremendous tome N - Z. Following the definitions there's a grey box containing 2 illustrative quotations so there can be no doubt what the word means and in what sort of context it can be used. I wish I'd had the wit to make this purchase sooner. How have I ever managed without?

Just after it was delivered, the lunch-time news reader referred to a war of attrition. "Attrition". Now then, what does that mean? It's one of those words you hear from time to time and you think you have a good idea of what it means from the context of its use.

I looked it up in my old dictionary. It said: "n. gradual wearing down (war of attrition); friction, abrasion". Right ho. That's more or less what I thought it meant.

Then I looked it up in my new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. It gave no fewer than FIVE definitions of the word and illustrative quotations for THREE of them. The first definition was theological and explained the difference between attrition and contrition. The next definition was medical. I won't quote them here because I wouldn't want to give the plot away. I'll just say that I have a very firm grasp of the meaning of the word "attrition" now.

I recommend this book. I know what I mean and I mean what I say when I say "I can't recommend this book highly enough".
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on 30 July 2005
The layout is fantastic and the dictionary is far easier to navigate than the standard monolingual dictionaries available in other languages (e.g. the German Duden, Dutch van Dale and Polish PWN).
The dictionary is wonderfully exhaustive and I have never failed to find a word I have looked for or a particular usage. The historical information is useful for determining whether a particular usage should be disallowed since it is now archaic (or for similar 'proof-reader' purposes); the number of scientific entries is reassuring, and the scientific explanations are easy to follow.
Definitions are in the simplest possible English and strikingly succinct.
The logic and clear-thinking of this superlative dictionary mean that no other dictionary is required for native English speakers.
For non-native English speakers, this is also fantastic, but could well be supplemented by any 'co-build' collocations dictionaries and/or dictionaries with margin notes on verbal usage (e.g. prepositional usage with particular verbs and types and number of objects taken).
This book is a joy.
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on 28 September 2002
This is quite simply the best dictionary you will ever find. It may not be as comprehensive as the 20 volume OED, but it has the advantage of being one tenth its size and one twentieth of its cost, with no obvious ommissions to all but the most educated user. Every word in use since the 17th Century is included, with some surprising new additions, such as Jedi and Tardis. If you buy this dictionary you will have a friend for life.
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on 30 January 2006
This dictionary is very comprehensive, explanations are detailed and the layout is easy on the eyes. Highly recommended.
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on 5 July 2005
This dictionary is amazing. Not only does it look good on the shelf but the CD rom is worth the money alone
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on 10 July 2014
Comes in two - enormous - volumes. Excellent quality and regularly used.
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on 28 December 2003
I bought this as a gift for my father, when i was younger i was always impressed by the coverage of his concise dictionary, i thought it had every word in the world in it. When i looked in this book however i was proven wrong!! the coverage is extremely exstensive with pretty much every word imaginable contained within it, not only is there huge numbers of words but the definitions are extremely detailed handing out many different facts and meaning related to each word. For anyone who is a fan of literature, books or simply knowing what obscure words mean this is the perfect purchase or in my dad's case gift. He loves it to bits and i would recommend it to everybody. For the those of you worried about thre price it is well worth it, this book is huge!! it shouldnt be measured by the number of pages but by the number of kilos it weighs!! Go on treat yourself!!!!
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This review does indeed refer to the fifth edition, updated in 2002. I've only just bought the book but, contrary to a previous reviewer who said "I have never failed to find a word I have looked for or a particular usage" I have found it to be lacking without even trying. There is no entry for 'blog' or 'hoodie'. So far as I can tell, 'hoodie' has been in use since at least 1991 and 'blog' since 1998. (Certainly by 2002, when they were all the rage). Perhaps it reflects a cautious approach by the editors, but there's no time for such cautiousness in this internet era when the Urban Dictionary has got it all covered and WiFi, Kindles and iPads threaten to consign books to wherever we keep our typewriters these days.
I still think the OSD deserves three stars for being an excellent alternative to a computer during a powercut. It's also a fascinating book to flick through if you just like stumbling across unusual words, many of which it does contain.
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