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Which do you think is the single best dictionary you'd have on your desk? I've always imagined having ONE that would serve most of my practical needs like reading of newspapers, books and doing writing. My desk is always cluttered with dictionaries, each serving its own purpose because each has different strengths. One would give sharp, concise definitions but may not be always current; another would give very clear, current, nuanced definitions but the long-windedness gets irritating after a while. I just can't stop myself looking up all of them for want of the most accurate definition whenever I chance upon a word (or phrase).

Some choices I can think of:

1) Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus (2nd ed) -- sharp, concise definitions but not always most current; plus: etymologies and thesaurus

2) The Oxford American College Dictionary -- clear, current, nuanced definitions, but long-winded; plus: ample examples; minus: no etymologies

3) Concise Oxford Dictionary (11th ed) -- a balance between the above two? with etymologies, but a lot less examples than 2).
Comments  
If you're not a native English speaker, I suggest you get one of these:

LONGMAN ADVANCED AMERICAN DICTIONARY ( with CD-ROM ) -- American English

LONGMAN DICTIONARY OF CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH ( with CD-ROM ) -- British English

I have collections of dictionaries (more than 100), and I find the most accurate on what I want, for they also have useful notes on usage (social use of a word, difference between synonyms, culture and grammar notes).

And also try these free online dictionaries at:

www.dictionary.com (unabridged dictionary)

www.yourdictionary.com (there are also a lot of technical dictionaries)

http://dictionary.msn.com (with audio pronunciation)
Thank you for your reply. Actually, I have the Longmans too. As a non-native speaker, I find them very useful too, especially when they contain most of the words and phrases I need to find. But they couldn't fulfill something I find a non-native speaker also needs. I realise that I want to be able to remember definitions; this helps me recall the word's definition quickly when I come across it again or when I need to use it. This where the non-ESL dictionaries come in handy. Take for example the word 'lest'. With Collins I can easily remember or memorise its definition as 'for fear that; in case'; so when I come across the word or need to use it again, I can quickly substitute it with the definition and check if the definition fits into the sentence. But with Longman I couldn't, because the definition is too wordy:

Collins:

lest : for fear that; in case: he was alarmed lest she should find out.

Longman (American):

lest : used to show that someone is afraid or worried that a particular thing might happen: He paused, afraid lest he say too much.