How to Use A Dictionary   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
348-5175

A dictionary will give you the following information about a word:

  1. How to spell the word and its special plural form

  2. Whether or not the word is capitalized or abbreviated
  3. How to break the word into syllables
  4. How to pronounce the word
  5. The part of speech of a word
  6. Different meanings that the word has, as well as synonyms (same meaning) and antonyms (opposite meaning)
  7. A sentence or expression with the word used correctly
  8. The meanings of important prefixes and suffixes
  9. The special uses of the word
  10. The history of the word
  11. Other words derived from the main word

Special sections in some dictionaries tell you about:

  1. Foreign words and phrases

  2. Abbreviations

  3. Addresses of colleges or government offices

  4. The population of cities and countries

Applying the following pointers will save time when you use a dictionary:

  1. Know and use proper alphabetical order

  2. Use guide words to save time

  3. Check all abbreviations and symbols in the special sections

  4. If at first you donít succeed in finding the word, donít give up. You might need to check several possible spellings before finding the word

  5. Substitute the meaning you find for the word in the sentence. Be sure you select the most appropriate meaning, not merely the first one you come to

  6. Try saying the word aloud after you look at the pronunciation key.