Things You'll Need:
* Oxford English Dictionary On CD-ROM
Read the introductory or front matter of the dictionary. You'll understand the various features and how they're set off using typefaces (bold, italic), numbering, lettering and punctuation.
Pick an entry or two to review, referring back to the introduction. Find the parts of speech and related words, and look up the abbreviations used.
Find several etymologies (word histories) and use the list of abbreviations to decipher them.
Check the pronunciations of some words you know, using the pronunciation key to become familiar with the conventions used in your dictionary. Then look up a word that you do not know how to pronounce and see whether you can figure it out.
Consult your dictionary about finding words if you don't know the spelling. Often, good suggestions are offered in the explanatory material.
Note special features such as quotations or examples of use. These are intended to help you find the exact meaning you're seeking. Try substituting the word in a sentence to test it.
Look up abbreviated labels in the table for them. They can indicate that a word is used in a certain region, for a specific subject, or that it has a special usage ' slang, informal, nonstandard, archaic, obsolete, vulgar and so on.
Use the dictionary to hunt around for synonyms of words. Although it's not as handy as a thesaurus, you will find plenty of related words by doing multiple lookups using the words in definitions.
Tips & Warnings
Dictionaries advertise high word counts based on the fact that entries have "run-ons" and "derivatives" as well as "inflections." Run-ons and derivatives are forms of the base word such as electricity from electric. Inflections are grammatical changes in number, person, mood or tense ' and plurals.
You may be surprised to learn that there are variant spellings and pronunciations. The first listing is not necessarily correct but, rather, preferred.
Remember that the dictionary is not an unquestionable authority. It is written by trained professionals reporting on the real use of words and phrases by the general public.
The use of the name Webster is public domain. All dictionaries called Webster are not created equal. Read dictionary reviews before buying a new one.