Hello guys, could you tell me what is the most used dictionary in the US by native speakers of American English? Highschool/university students and people in general...

Thanks! Emotion: smile
I can't say it is the most used one but the best known one is the Merriam Webster, here in the UK it is Oxford. I always use to use Collins though. I am British, so wait until some Americans answer you.
It depends on what you mean by most used. If you are simply referring to which dictionary sells the most copies, it would probably be one the Webster's dictionaries. Webster actually refers to the style of the dictionary and means it is based on the original set of dictionaries published by Noah Webster. Merriam Webster is probably the most common version for children. Random House is also used often in high schools. The American Heritage Dictionary is among the most used overall and is geared more toward adults and college students. Keep in mind though that Merriam, Random House, American Heritage, Oxford, and all the rest are the names of publishers and it means that the dictionary is published by that company.

Most dictionaries are the same when it comes to content, but each publisher may choose different information to include or change the way in which it is organized.

At one time there were two different approaches to dictionaries. The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) was based on one approach and Webster's Dictionary was based on another. Webster spent decades traveling and asking people "what does this word mean?". He recorded these answers, then when he had enough data, he averaged the answers together to come up with a common definition so that the meaning of that word was the one that most people gave it. The approach used for the original dictionary (not the OED but the one on which it was originally based) was written with the idea that only certain 'experts' should be allowed to say what a word means and was simply a large listing of words as defined by a small group of writers.

These two dictionaries competed with each other for decades until finally Webster's method was proven superior. At that point Oxford and all other dictionary publishers began using Webster's method of surveying people to determine definitions.

The OED is considered the best dictionary in the world (for the English language at least) and is the most respected and considered to be the primary authority when it comes to what words mean in English. It uses Webster's approach of surveying speakers to find out what they think a word means. Because around 75% percent of native English speakers live in America, this means that the content of the OED, even though it is published by Oxford, is overwhelmingly American, making the best English dictionary in the world also the best 'American English' dictionary.


There is an expression that says "It's six of one or half a dozen of the other." This means that either way, they're all pretty much the same thing.
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brenobrendanHello guys, could you tell me what is the most used dictionary in the US by native speakers of American English? Highschool/university students and people in general... Thanks! Emotion: smile
Welcome to the forums!

I use Merriam Webster, but I use the online version, www.m-w.com . I particularly like their usage notes.
I've used American Heritage for about 40 years now. They are basically descriptive rather than presecriptive, and they had an excellent paperback called Book of English Usage, including style, word choice, word formations, grammar and e-mail terms and abbreviations (although this little section is largely out-of-date).
That sounds about like my first experience with American Heritage. I had signed up for a course on English etymology (word roots, prefixes and suffixes) and the instructor insisted on that dictionary. By the end of the course it was obvious why because it provide a decent amount of technical information about the words in it without using very complex terminology or forms. It also lists a very clear history of the word so anyone can understand where it comes from.

To me, it's like a shortened version of the OED but with most of the important bits and pieces left in and packaged into something that's very easy to use.
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Collecting dictionaries is my hobby, although I cannot afford to buy the big ones like OED. I have found Merriam Webster the best for American English and Oxford the best for British English. I especially like Merriam Webster's collegiate 11th edition and Concise Oxford 10th through 12th editions very useful for day to day use. But above all, I must name the Oxford Dictionary of English (first published as the New Oxford Dictionary of English edited by Judy Pearsall). I think this is a masterpiece. The Concise Oxford 10th and later editions are based on it.

Qazi Nazrul Huque
Oxford english dictionary

Great response! I assume the initial approach you spoke about (upon which the OED was based) was due to the class system of the time. Merchant and peasant classes were ill-equipped to handle such a task (and deemed relatively illiterate), so they left it to Oxford or Cambridge professors.

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