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VINE VOICEon 12 February 2009
Anyone old enough to remember the days when executives had secretaries should be able to confirm that the well-thumbed dictionary most likely to be found in the sec's office was the Concise Oxford. It was also the dictionary that a wise parent might give to their child going off to college or university. It earned this position by combining the authority that came ultimately from the OED with the common sense and practicality that chose the right subset of words to represent the English used or likely to be encountered, in real life by real people. To those who know about popular dictionaries in the USA, I can just say "this is our Websters Collegiate".

You can of course get one-volume dictionaries with many more words - the full versions of Chambers and Collins, and the Oxford Dictionary of English. Very good dictionaries all, but a notch heavier and more expensive. But for clear coverage of the vast majority of words you're ever likely to meet, the Concise does the job. It does more than the job in some cases, with usage and history notes for various words. The usage notes are the more useful (and more frequent), telling you about things like the times when round is used instead of around, and vice versa, or the offensiveness of 'spastic' in modern use. As another reviewer points out, pronunciations are only given where they're not obvious to English speakers. Not a problem, I think, unless you're a non-native speaker of English - but there are dictionaries designed specifically for use by students of English, which I suspect deal with this issue.

Placed right in the middle of the dictionary is a 24-page "Centre Section" with information about the way lexicographers deal with English words, lists of ineteresting words of various kinds, and a guide to good English. This placement seems a bit odd, but the shading on page edges makes it easy to find (for other pages, this does a pale grey letter-less imitation of thumb-indexing - helpful once you remember a few things like "the fat letter near the end is S"). My guess is that some work with real dictionary users discovered that having this stuff at the beginning or end was a good way to ensure that almost no-one found it.

A brief mention for the reason I own too many dictionaries - the Concise Oxford is one of the two dictionaries used as a standard reference by the Times crossword (the other is Collins). Lots of people will tell you that "Chambers is the only dictionary for crosswords". If you're doing the fiendish barred-grid puzzles like Azed and the Listener this is true, but except for the odd bit of wildness from Araucaria and the like, the vast majority of answers in a daily paper cryptic crossword (proper nouns excepted of course) will be found in the humble COED.
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on 30 August 2006
Summary: Comprehensive, up-to-date, but short on definitions and illustrative examples

Reviewer: A reader from Singapore

The revised eleventh edition is very comprehensive and up-to-date in its coverage of words from different varieties of English. I am particularly impressed by the large number of "informal" words and phrases that have not yet appeared in other dictionaries, even those available online.

However, I am disappointed that, to accommodate the new additions, the definitions tend to be short, so much so that the full nuance is lost. Illustrative examples of word use are also greatly reduced. Like othe recent Oxford dictionaries, it does not provide the pronunciation of many words that the editors consider familiar to native speakers of English in the UK.

I have changed my mind about giving away the eighth and ninth editions of the COD, which give more detailed information on the words that they include.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 September 2010
Needing a supplement to my aging 1987 Webster, and in particular one reliably giving British usage, I originally bought the Cambridge International Dictionary of English. It's an excellent dictionary, in fact I would say *the* dictionary, for non-native speakers; the entries, explanations and descriptions of usage are wonderfully simple and clear.

But it simply didn't have in it enough of the words I looked up, so I sent it to a friend of mine in Spain who's learning English, and bought the Concise.

I must say at once that it was an immense improvement; in the three months I've had it, there's only been one word I've looked for that wasn't in it ("testudinal", which is found in William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill: I think it means "relating to tortoises"). I don't know if you can count FUBAR, which isn't listed (although SNAFU is).

It's also strong on modern technical terms (such as "blog") and slang expressions (such as "go postal"). And whatever one's view of political correctness, one needs to be aware of it to be absolutely certain of avoiding offence. Here again I found the Concise exemplary.

However, I am not so ecstatic about some of the other features.

One is the treatment of pronunciation. I accept that it's better to use the IPA than some half-baked phonetic equivalent, and I'm gradually getting used to it. But "the principle followed is that pronunciations are only given where they are likely to cause problems for the native speaker of English". So if you're not a native speaker — or you're a child who hasn't yet attained an adult vocabulary — then, presumably, you're SOL; you'd be better off with the Cambridge. Further, although US spellings are provided, US pronunciations are not, only RP ones; thus no cognizance is taken (for instance) of the difference between UK ad-'dress and US 'ad-dress. And although two pronunciations of "laboratory" are given, there's no indication of which is which.

I found the Concise unhelpful on some aspects of usage. When did "ætiology" become "aetiology", and when did "B.B.C." become "BBC"?

More alarming is a syntactic sloppiness that pervades the whole thing. Of course every dictionary must strike a balance between prescriptivism and descriptivism*, and by and large the Concise does a good job (as in the entry for "decimate", for example). The policy on possessives is explicitly stated in the usage note for "they": 'It is now widely held that the traditional use of "he" to refer to a person of either sex is outdated and sexist; the alternative, "he or she", can be clumsy. It is now generally acceptable, therefore, to use "they" (with its counterparts "them", "their" and "themselves" instead. [...]'. But this means that "a pupil should leave their coat in the lobby" is acceptable, although it looks very odd to me. I guess I'm just old-fashioned.

"Façade" is presented without the cedilla, even as an alternative spelling, which looks to me outright illiterate. "Café" has an acute accent only as an alternative spelling.

Among other oddities are the use of "which" instead of "that" in restrictive clauses, and (on the last page) "hyphened" instead "hyphenated".

Some of the entries seem to me slightly off-centre, too, e.g. "legless" is defined as "extremely drunk", which is true as far as it goes. But specifically it means "too drunk to stand"; if you can still stand, you aren't legless, however drunk you are. "Rabbit" as a Cockney term is said to come from "rabbit and pork" = "talk", but as a Londoner I've always understood it to be from "rabbit's paw" = "jaw".

But by and large I'm happy with the Concise.

*In this connection, it's perhaps a sign of the times that the spelling "miniscule" has now overtaken "minuscule" (p.1700).


On the subject of the abbreviations and digraphs, I availed myself of the invitation to Ask Oxford, and received from a lady the following kind reply (in part):

"I have checked all editions of the Concise Oxford Dictionary back to 1911, and was interested to find that this publication has never used the æ and œ digraphs, though they were and still are to be found in the full Oxford English Dictionary. Of course they were never available on standard typewriter keyboards, and rare on early computers, and I suspect that this hastened their decline. In British English there has been a strong trend towards simplification in the past twenty years, and any unnecessary complication is out of favour; to use digraphs would not be considered incorrect, but fussy.

"The same process has affected punctuation, which is now lighter. I see that the initialism 'B.B.C.' appeared thus in the sixth edition of the Concise (1976) but as 'BBC' in the seventh (1982): both were edited by J.B. Sykes."

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on 13 April 2010
Whilst I agree with the other reviewers that the explanations are getting terser, this doesn't really matter too much as dictionaries are NOT encyclopedias. There will always be a trade off between size and content, and my 10th Edition has fewer pages than my 4th Edition but the latter is smaller as the paper is much thinner and the print size much smaller. The COED also exists in a hierarchy of dictionaries,and the assumption is that if you need more information you'll go to the Shorter OED, or even to the full dictionary.

As an owner of the 4th Edition (my father's from 1952), and 8th Edition, a 10th Edition and an on-line version of the 11th I am still sensible of why the COED exists: it was created in 1911 as the OUP was anxious that all people should have access to a definitive dictionary. The COED is exactly that and it is THE definitive English 'English Dictionary', as Chambers is Scottish (not in any way a criticism or slur of things Scottish merely an appreciation of their difference), and Collins now a transatlantic hybrid.

A final point is that the COED remains the spelling standard for the UK Civil Service (even though you'd never guess there were any standards from many official publications).
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on 15 February 2009
Concise Oxford English Dictionary

The COD has always been the best small English dictionary. Its rivals have drawbacks: Chambers has too many obscure Scottish words, and Collins lacks many useful words.

The latest edition of the COD updates the vocabulary well, without including too many temporarily topical words whose life is likely to be short.

My only criticism of the latest edition is the inclusion in the middle of a guidance section. This should have been at the beginning or the end. But this is a very small point - perhaps largely a matter of taste - about what is otherwise a very useful book.

David Lucas
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on 25 September 2009
Concise Oxford English Dictionary: 11th edition revised 2008

Have dictionaries already but needed a `slap-bang` up-to-date one. Play a lot of scrabble with my partner and it had got to the stage where although we have to agree that a word has to be in the dictionary, sometimes words that we knew didn`t actually appear. This dictionary is awesome, much better laid out and easy to use, with a good print. I find myself just browsing through it sometimes. An excellent bargain at the price as well. Would recommend this version to anyone.
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on 19 January 2011
I am not sure why an earlier reviewer had problems with this product, but it installs and runs happily on my (Windows 7, 64-bit) machine with no appreciable delays. I've been using the 10th edition for years and by comparison the 11th edition has a somewhat more sophisticated look and feel. The strange 'Lost for Words' button - which sounds like it might be a thesaurus facility - is just a random word picker. The dictionary includes a definition for 'social networking' but not Facebook or Twitter.

The product will look up words in other applications just by double-clicking on them.
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on 8 October 2009
Don't buy this bundle! No doubt, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary is a good dictionary, but this is not true for the bundled electronic version 2.0 on CD!

Smooth installation, but after the starting click the program window needs 25 seconds to open - impossible! Some other dictionaries or even dictionary libraries on my PC, that are several times bigger than the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, open within one or two seconds! The older version 1 of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary on CD as well only needed a fraction of the starting time of the new version 2.0. This is a severe malfunction!

As always I entered my first test headword 'horse'. To my surprise there was neither the loudspeaker sign for spoken pronunciation, nor even written phonetics! I checked a few more headwords - some show loudspeaker and phonetics, some show neither of them!

I uninstalled version 2.0 of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary and reinstalled the old version 1.

OUP sells a malfunctioning electronic dictionary and I threw my money out of the window.
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on 3 July 2009
a great all round dictionary at a great price -yes you can always look a word up on the net but nothing beats the full explanation you get from a well sourced dictionary
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on 13 January 2010
This is a great dictionary and has many new insertions, and origins of words. This makes it interesting reading even when not searching for words. My husband finds it invaluable for obscure cryptic crossword clues !!
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