Merriam-Webster[1]s Advanced Learner[1]s English

Dictionary is not only an entirely new dictionary

created by the editorial staff of America[1]s oldest

dictionary publisher

 it also marks the beginning

of a new kind of publishing for this company.

Over the past 160 years, Merriam-Webster has

produced hundreds of dictionaries and other reference

books, and many of those books have been

useful to learners of English as a second or foreign

language, but this dictionary is the first one that

we have produced specifically to meet the needs

of those learners. The creation of this dictionary

reflects the reality that English has become an international

language, and that American English,

in particular, is now being used and studied every

day by millions of people around the world. We

believe that we have a unique opportunity to help

students of English

in the U.S. and elsewhere

to understand our language and to use it more

clearly and effectively.

This dictionary provides coverage of both

American and British English. Its coverage of

British English is current and comprehensive. Its

coverage of American English is, we believe, unparalleled.

The thousands of entries, senses,

phrases, forms, and examples that are labeled US

in this dictionary will provide learners with a

clearer and more precise description of idiomatic

American usage than has ever before been available

in a dictionary of this kind.

The approximately 100,000 entries in this dictionary

include a broad selection of words from all

major areas of interest, including popular culture,

business, sports, science, and technology, among

others. Our main focus in choosing entries has

been to include the language that people are most

likely to need and encounter in their daily lives.

The evidence used to make decisions about which

words and senses to include was drawn, first of all,

from our continually growing database of citation

text, now numbering more than 100 million

words. That evidence was augmented in essential

ways by the resources that are available to us over

the Internet, and in particular by the enormous

databases of Lexis-Nexis, which provided editors

with ready access to vast amounts of material

from both American and British sources. Not so

long ago dictionary editors had to rely entirely on

evidence that had been painstakingly collected

over a period of years by a program of reading.

That program continues at Merriam-Webster,

providing the basis of our citation database, and

we continue to find great value in the traditional

methods of evidence-gathering, but we also have

fully embraced the power of the electronic tools

that have become available in recent decades. The

use of computers now makes it possible for dictionary

editors to examine and describe language at

a level of detail that was never before imaginable.

The definitions in this dictionary are written in

simple language. In many cases, a single use of a

word will be given more than one definition. Very

often a word will be defined by a quite simple definition,

followed by a definition that is perhaps

somewhat less simple or that shows how the defined

word is related to another word. For example,

the verb pioneer is defined both as to help

create or develop new ideas, methods, etc. and

as to be a pioneer in the development of something

. The first definition can certainly stand

alone, but the second definition enhances it by

underscoring the close connection between the

verb pioneer and the noun pioneer

a connection

that native speakers are unconsciously aware of,

but that learners may not sense so strongly. The

inclusion of multiple definitions thus helps learners

both to expand their vocabularies and to gain

a fuller picture of a word[1]s meaning by approaching

it from a slightly different direction. Notes of

various kinds are also used abundantly throughout

the dictionary to clarify and emphasize aspects

of usage that cannot be easily captured or

expressed in a definition.

True fluency in any language, of course, is not

acquired by memorizing dictionary definitions,

but by hearing and seeing how words are used in

combination with each other to express meaning.

In writing this book we have devoted a great deal

of care and attention to creating simple and accurate

definitions, but our feeling throughout has

been that the real heart of the dictionary is its examples.

We know from experience that dictionary

users, whether native speakers or learners, want

more examples. They want examples for common

words, and they want examples for difficult

words. Although not every entry in this dictionary

includes an example

there is usually very little

value in providing an example for, say, a noun

like microchip or monoplane

the great majority

of the entries do, and a large percentage of them

include more than one. There are more than

160,000 usage examples in this dictionary. A few

of them are quotations taken from well-known

works of American and British literature, but

most are made-up examples, based on evidence of

real English, that have been carefully written to

show words being used in appropriate contexts

which accurately reflect their uses in actual

speech and writing.

A large number of the examples in this dictio-


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nary do not simply illustrate usage, they also explain

it and expand upon it in other ways. Many

examples include synonymous words or phrases

shown within brackets, thus allowing the reader

either to learn a new word or to have the connection

between the meanings of words reinforced.

Examples also often include glosses, so that phrases

and compound terms whose meanings are not

obvious can be explained clearly and simply. And

we have very frequently explained the meaning of

entire phrases and sentences by restating them

with other, simpler words. Many examples also

show how the same word can be used in slightly

different ways[1]or how related words can be used

in different ways[1]to say the same thing. We believe

that such examples are of great value to the


 they are the next best thing to having a

native speaker available by your side to help clarify

what you are seeing and hearing.

Any comprehensive dictionary contains an

enormous amount of information, and dictionary

editors have typically been required to use a variety

of abbreviations and other shortcuts to fit all

that information into the limited space available

between the covers of a book. Two of our main

goals in creating the entries for this dictionary

were to keep the use of such shortcuts to a minimum

and to employ conventions that are readily

understandable. We set out to create a dictionary

that could be easily used without frequent reference

to explanatory materials. To achieve that, we

have minimized the use of abbreviations and symbols

although we were not able to eliminate them

entirely and we have tried to use labels and notes

whose meanings are immediately clear. We have

also made every effort to organize entries in a way

that allows users to find the information they

want quickly. The most obvious convention we

have adopted for this purpose is the use of blue

text for examples. The blue text not only highlights

the examples, it also makes it much easier

to identify the other elements of an entry[1]the

definitions, usages notes, and so on[1]and to navigate

through long entries to find the particular information

that you need.

It can sometimes be easy to forget that a large

dictionary like this one has to be written word by

word and line by line. Each definition, each example,

each note that appears in this dictionary is the

product of careful and strenuous thought by at

least one person, and often by many people, since

the nature of the writing and editing process is

such that multiple stages of review are required

before the work is truly finished. The names of

the many people who worked on this book are

listed in the following paragraphs.

The length of this project has meant that some

of the people who were with us when it began had

moved on to other parts of their lives by the time

it ended. The Merriam-Webster editors credited

here include both current and former staff members.

Former Director of Defining E. Ward Gilman

and former Editor in Chief Frederick C.

Mish, both now retired, provided helpful suggestions

when the project was in its initial planning

stages, as did consultant Robert Ilson. President

and Publisher John M. Morse was also involved in

the initial planning of the project and provided

support and encouragement throughout it.

The editors who had the first crack at creating

entries included, in no particular order, Karen L.

Wilkinson, Susan L. Brady, Thomas F. Pitoniak,

Kathleen M. Doherty, Emily A. Brewster, G.

James Kossuth, Emily B. Arsenault, Penny L.

Couillard-Dix, Emily A. Vezina, Benjamin T. Korzec,

Ilya A. Davidovich, Judy Yeh, Rose Martino

Bigelow, Kory L. Stamper, Peter A. Sokolowski,

Neil S. Serven, Deanna Stathis, Anne Eason,

Joanne M. Despres, Rebecca Bryer-Charette, and

myself. Dr. Ilson undertook a complete review of

the work that was done at that early stage, and he

made many valuable corrections and additions.

He was particularly helpful in providing good examples

and in augmenting our coverage of British

English by identifying distinctions

often very

subtle ones between American and British usage.

The pronunciations throughout the dictionary

were provided by Joshua S. Guenter. The essential

task of checking and re-checking cross-references

was handled by Maria Sansalone, Donna L. Rickerby,

and Adrienne M. Scholz. The work of copyediting

the entries that had been created by the

definers was done by editors Wilkinson, Brady,

Brewster, Couillard-Dix, Korzec, Yeh, Stamper,

Sokolowski, Serven, Eason, Despres, Bryer-

Charette, and me. The complexity of this project

was such that an additional reviewing stage was

added following copyediting. That work was done

by editors Bryer-Charette, Korzec, Brewster,

Stamper, Brady, Couillard-Dix, Wilkinson, and

Madeline L. Novak. The responsibility for final

review of the manuscript fell to me.

The proofreading of the galleys and page proofs

was done by many of the editors mentioned above

and by Anne P. Bello and Paul S. Wood. The primary

proofreader for the in-house keying of revisions

was Kathleen M. Doherty. Specialized editing

assistance was provided by editors Wood and

Doherty. Most of the illustrations that appear

throughout were newly created for this book. The

new black-and-white illustrations were drawn by

Tim Phelps of Johns Hopkins Univ., and the color

illustrations were researched and drawn by

Merriam-Webster editor Diane Caswell Christian.

Mark A. Stevens oversaw the creation of the new

illustrations and planned the black-and-white illustrations

along with Lynn Stowe Tomb, who also

coordinated work with Mr. Phelps and converted

the drawings to electronic form for typesetting.

Freelancer Loree Hany and editors Jennifer N.

Cislo and Joan I. Narmontas assisted in art research.

The selection of the 3,000 entry words that

are highlighted as being most important for learners

to know was based in large part on initial recommendations

provided by James G. Lowe and

Madeline L. Novak. Additional research was carried

out and final selections were made by John

M. Morse. The Geographical Names section was

prepared by Daniel J. Hopkins. The other back

matter sections were prepared by Mark A.

Stevens, C. Roger Davis, and outside contributor

Orin Hargraves. Robert D. Copeland arranged for

8a Preface

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Content Data Solutions, Inc., to convert the dictionary

data files to a suitable format before typesetting

them. The converted files were checked by

Donna L. Rickerby. Daniel B. Brandon keyed revisions

into the converted data files and contributed

other technical help. Thomas F. Pitoniak directed

the book through its typesetting stages.

Project coordination and scheduling were handled

by Madeline L. Novak, who was also chiefly

responsible for the book[1]s typography and page


Our notions about what this book could and

should be continued to develop as we progressed

through the different stages of editing, and many

of the people named above made useful suggestions

that led to changes, both minor and major,

in the book[1]s style and content. Further changes

were implemented thanks to comments and suggestions

from a group of consultants who reviewed

a selection of entries at a fairly late stage

in the project. We gratefully acknowledge the important

contributions of those consultants, whose

names are listed below.

We want first of all to express our thanks to

Jerome C. Su, President of the Taiwan Association

of Translation and Interpretation and Chair of

Bookman Books, Taipei, Taiwan, for all of his advice

and good suggestions at the reviewing stage

and throughout the project. Our other consultants,

all of whom provided us with carefully considered

and valuable feedback, were Virginia G.

Allen, author and educator, Ohio State Univ.

James H. Miller, ESL teacher

 Elizabeth Niergarth,

ESL instructor

consultant, Harvard Univ.

Susan Despres Prior, ESL teacher

 Caroline Wilcox

Reul, lexicographer and ESL teacher


Sokolik, Director, Technical Communication Program,

College of Engineering, Univ. of California,


 Yukio Takahashi, English teacher, Sendai

Shirayuri Gakuen High School, Sendai, Japan

Gregory Trzebiatowski, Headmaster, Thomas Jefferson

School, Concepción, Chile and his students

Felipe Opazo, Paula Reyes, and Carolina


 and Rob Waring, author and educator,

Notre Dame Seishin Univ., Okayama, Japan.

All of the editors who worked on this book have

of course had the experience of studying a foreign

language, with varying degrees of success. This

project has given us renewed opportunities to understand

what it is like to approach Englishwith

all its complexities, subtleties, and apparent

inconsistenciesas a learner rather than as a native

speaker, and that experience has reminded us

again of just how challenging the task of learning

a new language truly is. We hope and believe that

Merriam-Webster[1]s Advanced Learner[1]s English

Dictionary is a resource that will make that task

easier for students of English.

Stephen J. Perrault



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