How to Find the Meaning of Words

by Erica Sweeney

Words can have many different meanings and contexts. And, there are many resources available to help you find different meanings for words. These resources include dictionaries and thesauruses, which are available in hard-copy, book form or online.

Dictionary

Dictionaries list all of the meanings for a word. They also provide the word's pronunciation and roots, and list whether the word is noun, verb or adjective. Words are arranged alphabetically in a dictionary.

Multiple Meanings & Context

Many words have more than one meaning, and it is important to be familiar with all of the word's meanings so that you fully understand the word. This will help you to use the word in the correct context.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

The OED has been around since the late 1800s and lists nearly every word in the English language. The OED is an excellent resource for finding out about a word's origins because it lists dates from the past when the word has been recorded.

Thesaurus

A thesaurus lists the synonyms and antonyms of a word. Synonyms are words that have similar meanings, and antonyms are words that have opposite meanings.

Synonyms

Finding another word that has a similar meaning to a word is helpful in understanding its meaning. However, while synonyms are similar words, they do not necessarily have the same meaning and are not interchangeable.

Online Resources

There are several different dictionaries and thesauruses that are available online for free. Many public libraries allow you to use your library card to access their online dictionaries and other research tools, including the OED.

References

About the Author

Erica Sweeney is a freelance writer and editor based in Little Rock, Ark. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work has been published at SaidIt.org, Arkansas Times, Aging Arkansas and Arkansas Business.