Encarta Dictionary
(Online College Dictionary)

The Encarta Dictionary (online college dictionary) is a great free resource for people with an advanced level of English.

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It is a college dictionary. Now, what does this mean?

What is a College Dictionary?

A "college dictionary" (also known as "collegiate dictionary") is a dictionary adjusted especially for college students.

It should contain the words and phrases a college student is likely to encounter in his studies, and shouldn't go into old and out-of-use words. A good college dictionary should include over 200,000 word entries. It should also be compact enough to be carried around rather easily. (Compare this to a 20 volume full sized dictionary!)

The college dictionary is a key tool for any student.

The Encarta dictionary is an online college dictionary. It has a wide scope of entry words and precise and full definitions.

Here is a comparison between the Encarta dictionary (online version), the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and the Oxford Essential Dictionary (most basic level):

(Oxford Essential Dictionary) gene = there is no definition for this word.
(This dictionary explains only the most important and basic words, and this word is omitted).

(Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary) gene = a unit inside a cell which controls a particular quality in a living thing that has been passed on from its parents.
(This dictionary is for advanced English learners, so it explains the word as simply as possible.)

(Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary) gene = the basic unit capable of transmitting characteristics from one generation to the next. It consists of a specific sequence of DNA or RNA that occupies a fixed position on a chromosome.
(This dictionary gives the most data. You can really get the full picture. HOWEVER, depending on your vocabulary level, it may contain words that you do not know and would only confuse you.)

Another important feature of the Encarta Dictionary is that it contain word etymology data.

What is word etymology?

Etymology = the origin and history of a word.

For example, this is the etymology of the word prince:
  • It arrived to English in the 12th century.
  • It arrived from French.

  • The French word originally arrived from the Latin word princeps,
    which meant "somebody who takes first place."
Of course, dictionaries don't have place for such long stories, so they usually write it in a short way. Here is how Encarta put it:

[12th century. Via French< Latin princeps "somebody who takes first place"]

Why is word etymology important?

Imagine you are learning a new word. Let's say the word "omnipotent."

You find out that it means: "having total power; able to do anything."

Then you look at the etymology of the word, and you discover that it comes from the Latin words: omnis ("all") + potens ("able").

Now the word makes much more sense, doesn't it?

So the Encarta dictionary gives you full word etymologies.

Any downsides?

Yes. As wonderful and extensive as it is, it is a high level dictionary. It can definitely be too high for beginning English learners.


Should you use it?

This is up to you. If your level of English is advanced enough – go ahead, take advantage of this data rich reference book.

On the other hand, if the definitions sound complicated – it is probably best to choose another dictionary and improve your English further before using this one.

This dictionary is currently available online for free, but it also has several "children" that can be purchased (in the form of books or CDs).

Get your own copy, or check it out online.

(Important note: Unfortunately, the online version was discontinued. You can still order it, though.)

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