42366REFERENCE: TOOLS: DICTIONARIES: Encyclopedic Dictionary
- Jul 1, 2014.
REFERENCE: TOOLS: DICTIONARIES:
An encyclopedic dictionary typically includes a large number of short listings,
arranged alphabetically, and discussing a wide range of topics.
Encyclopedic dictionaries can be general, containing articles on topics in many
different fields; or they can specialize in a particular field, such as Art,
Biography, Law, Medicine, or Philosophy. They may also be organized around a
particular academic, cultural, ethnic, or national perspective.
Historically, the term has been used to refer to any encyclopedic reference
book (that is, one comprehensive in scope), which was organized alphabetically,
as with the familiar dictionary. (The term dictionary preceded encyclopedia in
common usage by about two centuries.) To convey their alphabetic method of
organization and to contrast that method with other systems for classifying
knowledge, many early encyclopedias were titled or sub-titled "a dictionary of
arts and sciences" or something similar.
However, it later developed into a somewhat distinct class of reference books.
While there are similarities, of course, to both dictionaries and
encyclopedias, there are important distinctions as well:
A dictionary is primarily focused on words and their definition, and typically
provides limited information, analysis of different forms, and an etymology (in
more complete dictionaries) for the word defined. Hence, while it may offer a
definition, it may leave the reader still lacking in understanding the meaning
or import of a term, and how the term relates to a broader field of knowledge.
An encyclopedia, on the other hand, seeks to discuss each subject in more depth
and convey the accumulated knowledge on that subject. This characteristic is
especially true of those encyclopedias with long monographs on particular
subjects, such as the first ten editions of the Encyclopia Britannica. While
often organized alphabetically, some encyclopedias were not. Usually, more of
the discussion may be organized around a field (such as law) or a topic (such
as the Scottish enlightenment), and less on the alphabetic terminology related
to that discussion. An encyclopedia also often includes many maps and
illustrations, as well as bibliography and statistics.
Compared to a dictionary, the encyclopedic dictionary offers a more complete
description and a choice of entries selected to convey a range of knowledge.
Compared to an encyclopedia, the encyclopedic dictionary offers ease of use,
through summarized entries and in some cases more entries of separate terms;
and often reduced size, and the reduced publishing and purchase cost that
Of course, the question of how to structure the entries, and how much
information to include, are among the core issues in organizing reference
books. As different approaches are better suited to different uses or users,
all three approaches have been in wide use since the end of the 18th century.
The title of the volume may not be a good indication of which type of reference
it is, as commercial concerns may have affected the publisher's selection of a
Encyclopedic Dictionary from Google Books
Encyclopedic Dictionary from Google Scholar
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Encyclopedic Dictionary from Temple Summon Search
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