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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language [Hardcover]

American Heritage Dictionary , Joseph P. Pickett
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 2000 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

The all-new Fourth Edition of the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language offers more information about the language, in a more accessible format, than any other dictionary in its class. And its elegant, inviting design makes it the most handsome reference book on the market.

Over 10,000 new words and senses. From slang and popular culture to the latest medical, high-tech, and scientific terms, the Fourth Edition's vocabulary has been thoroughly updated to reflect our constantly changing language.

Fresh, full-color design. Over 4,000 full-color photographs, drawings, and maps enhance the Fourth Edition's definitions and make browsing irresistible.

Trustworthy usage guidance. The American Heritage Dictionary has distinguished itself for decades by offering clear and comprehensive usage guidance. Hundreds of new and updated Usage Notes, based on the results of surveys sent to the more than 200 scholars and writers who comprise our Usage Panel, help you make informed decisions about usage questions you face every day.

More in-depth note features than any other dictionary. Word Histories, Synonym Paragraphs, and Regional Notes explore the language in a breadth and depth unequaled by any other dictionary.

All-new Our Living Language Notes. A fascinating new series of Notes illustrates how social factors such as age and ethnicity influence the way our language is shaped by speakers from all walks of life.

Unrivaled biographies and geographies. The American Heritage® Dictionary has long been known for its expansive treatment of biographical and geographical entries. These informative capsule summaries have been thoroughly updated for the Fourth Edition.

Two unique Appendixes. Discover the hidden connections between words in the newly expanded Appendix of Indo-European Roots and in the all-new Appendix of Semitic Roots. The Fourth Edition offers you the most thorough and intriguing view of the history of words to be found in any dictionary.

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From Amazon

The latest edition of the American Heritage Dictionary is out, and that's hot news--not just for the resolute followers of lexicographical minutiae, but for the general reading and writing public as well. Why? Because the American Heritage is a long-standing favorite family dictionary (never underestimate the value of pictures) and one of the prime dictionary references for magazines, newspapers, and dot.com content providers. For scads of writers and editors across the U.S., it sets the standard on matters of style and lexicographical authority.

So this new edition is exciting and noteworthy, but how good is it? In its favor, the fourth edition is as current a dictionary as you can get. It's six years fresher than the 1994 version, with 10,000 words and definitions you won't find in the still venerable but now slightly dated third edition. For example, unlike its predecessor (and also unlike the 1996 Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary), this fourth edition covers dot-com, e-commerce, and soccer mom, Ebonics, Viagra, and a surf definition for cruising television channels and the Internet.

Its panel of special consultants includes authorities on anthropology, architecture, cinema, and law, plus military science, music, religion, and sports, and that is reflected in an impressively comprehensive coverage of the arts, culture, and technology. Sadly, however, there are no medical consultants on the panel, and that loss is felt in some substandard medical definitions. Other flaws: there's a greater than usual tendency to define a word with a form of the same word--for example, fuzzy, whose first two definitions are "1. covered with fuzz." and "2. of or resembling fuzz." And some definitions seem needlessly wordy, such as the entry for furious, which is "full of or characterized by extreme anger; raging." Compare that with the more succinct Oxford Encyclopedic entry: "1. extremely angry. 2. full of fury."

On the other hand, there are valuable entries throughout the dictionary supplying additional information on synonyms, usage, or word history, and these extras, such as the history of diatribe and the usage notes on discomfit, are interesting. The layout is easy on the eyes, with dark blue/green bold type setting the words apart from their definitions, and 4,000 color photographs, maps, and illustrations that are both useful and delightful. On one page, the margin provides color depictions of Francis Bacon, bacterium, and a Bactrian camel. Theodore Roosevelt and a rooster share another margin, while a third page offers Isak Dinesen, a dingo, and dinoflagellate. It is a fascinating book to peruse, and a compellingly scholarly addition to the American Heritage Dictionary line. --Stephanie Gold

From Booklist

Ever since the furor in the U.S. that greeted Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961) faded, it has become a given that dictionaries should be descriptive rather than prescriptive, a principle sanctified in Britain in the 1850s in Herbert Coleridge's original plan for the monumental project that eventually produced the Oxford English Dictionary. That dictionaries grow by gradual accretion of new words and new senses characterizes the latest edition of the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD), even if it, more than any other contemporary English-language dictionary, flirts with prescriptiveness in some of its usage notes.Reflecting trends in society since publication of the third edition (1992), the most visible additions to the lexicon come from technology. Hence AHD now includes the sense of dot as a synonym for period in computer jargon; a new techie sense for geek; and new entries for dot-com, e-commerce, HTML, HTTP, and URL. These are but a few of the 10,000 new senses or terms incorporated into this edition. Others (e.g., goth, personal watercraft, transgendered) come from the fields of pop culture, entertainment, sports, and business, to name a few.AHD shows two other, much more visible signs of its times. First, the thumbnail marginal illustrations have been transformed from black-and-white to color. This increases their clarity, their utility, and the value they add to definitions. Second, it comes in both print and CD-ROM formats.The CD-ROM (for Windows 95 through 2000 and NT and available for $24.95 if purchased alone) offers content almost identical to that of the print volume and many added features. Some of the illustrations in the print edition are absent from the CD (e.g., mackinaw). This is a small sacrifice for the far greater gains, one of which relates to illustrations. A search feature allows users to display only those terms that contain illustrations, and when any of these is displayed, its thumbnail illustration can be enlarged, offering even greater clarity than the color thumbnails on paper.Other features of the CD-ROM make it an attractive alternative to print, especially for personal use in situations in which it can reside more or less permanently on a PC's CD-ROM drive. A running list of entries in a frame to the left of the display window provides, with much greater precision than the printed dictionary's thumb indexing, quick access to a letter's section. In addition to the word search and A-Z scrolling display of all entries in that left-side window, the window's contents can be limited to display usage notes (usage, synonym, word histories, regional notes), Indo-European roots, Semitic roots, or (as noted) entries containing images. Most entries on the CD-ROM also include an audio icon that, when clicked, plays the word's pronunciation in an audible voice (for some words that of a male, for others that of a female). Just as the Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary allows a toolbar link from Microsoft Word to the dictionary's contents, AHD provides this linkage through a right-mouse click.One other feature demonstrates the dictionary's sense of its times in the age of Internet filters and Dr. Laura controversies: when loading the CD-ROM, the user is asked whether to load the dictionary to include or exclude access to "vulgar" words. This is a latter-day sign of AHD's long willingness to apply usage labels more freely than most of its competitors. Taken by themselves, its usage labels (e.g., "slang," "vulgar") unquestionably appear to be prescriptive. However, when viewed in the context of the dictionary's usage notes, they soften and take on nuance. The usage notes depend heavily upon a large panel of writers and commentators representing diverse views. (What other group can claim both Harold Bloom and Roy Blount Jr and both Antonin Scalia and David Sedaris as members?) The notes convey the panel's uncertainties, disagreements, and qualifiers about how the words are and ought to be used. On the whole, AHD takes an old, inherently prescriptive dictionary device and uses it to describe the majority and minority opinions of a group of facile users of the language. A new category of notes, "Our Living Language," explains how language changes, for example, the reasons why the Ocracoke Island brogue is fading and the attempts to come up with euphemisms for the euphemism downsize. Approximately 1,800 notes of various sorts provide more context and more description than mere labels.When it comes to the things that users turn to a dictionary for most often--definitions, confirmation of spelling, pronunciation--AHD delivers as well as any other respected, respectable desk dictionary. Its definitions are clear and succinct, and they differentiate among senses of a word. Illustrations of words in sentences enhance selected definitions. A pronunciation key on every two-page spread of the print version is the next best thing to the audio on the CD-ROM.AHD long ago established itself as one of the standard American English dictionaries. Its improvements through expansion, refinement, and extension to the CD-ROM medium ensure its vitality and its value to a broad audience, from junior high on. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'm a 6th grade teacher, and when I recently reviewed several paperback dictionaries to decide which one to purchase in bulk for my students, I chose the American Heritage Dictionary because it was the only one which included word origins, a very important part of our word analysis work. Besides, I find it's the dictionary I grab for a clear, concise definition most of the time. And it has pictures of important people!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In retrospect, I should have gotten the most recent edition of this dictionary in hardcover instead of the paperback because it isn't complete enough. It is probable that I will do so at a later date. I recommend that anyone considering purchasing either who can afford the hardcover spend on it instead of on this, because I think this one may well be sure to disappoint.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fine reference... Nov. 24 2003
By A Customer
This 4th edition is a valuable addition to any library (home, school, office, etc.).
The book is somewhat of a tome (over 2000 pages) but is indeed a "user-friendly" reference, featuring color illustrations all throughout the book, and presenting definitions in a clear, interesting, and concise manner.
Despite its superficial glitz, this is a quite serious dictionary, including copious material on word origins, history of the English language, and various other scholarly "extras".
Besides The American Heritage Dictionary, I use Merriam-Webster's 10th & 11th Collegiate Dictionaries, Merriam-Webster's Third New International(unabridged), and both the Oxford New American Dictionary and the 2-volume Oxford Shorter Dictionary of the English Language. I recommend all of these (available on Amazon) and I find that they complement each other.
Again, you won't go wrong in purchasing The American Heritage Dictionary, even if it is the only dictionary that you own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Its Kind Feb. 9 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Whenever anyone asks me what the best dictionary is, I unhesitatingly recommend the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. That's the big, unabridged one. The handy pocket edition has close to 1,000 pages and costs only $. It's based on the unabridged original and has the same features I really like about the big one: Etymology, lots of photos, guidance on grammar, etc.
The only criticism one might have of this book is the choice of who gets to have his picture in the dictionary. In this particular edition, a male European American is a long shot, unless he happens to have been President of the United States. For example, Tenzing Norgay, who scaled Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, gets his picture in the dictionary; Sir Edmund is not so honored. Muhammad Ali, Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan, and Jackie Robinson make the book, but not Babe Ruth. Pocahontas makes it, but not Captain John Smith. But, to me, these "flaws" are not irritating; they're just kind of amusing.
If you want a terrific pocket dictionary, then look no further. There's nothing else in the class of the American Heritage.
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4.0 out of 5 stars John Nemerovski MyMac.com Book Review Oct. 24 2002
It is the biggest, heaviest, most lengthy and expensive volume ever to be considered for Book Bytes. The Fourth Edition has become an indispensable member of our literary family here. We adore the dictionary and use it every day. What it isn't should not be faulted, because what it is makes it so valuable, in addition to more than 200,000 well-worded definitions: loaded with thousands of color images, located in outside margin columns, pertinent to several of the citations on any given page;full of extensive supplementary usage notes, word histories, and synonyms for special words on most pages; really easy on the eyeballs, with well-conceived typography;contemporary in its use of language and colloquial words defined, such as: "shopaholic," "mu shu," "digerati," and thousands more from science and technology to food and pop culture;genuine commitment to providing extensive biographical and geographical entries.
You can lose yourself for hours with this dictionary, and enjoy every moment of the experience. Although it is geared for students of all ages, every reader will benefit from having this backbreaking blockbuster on your bookshelf.
Any gripes? Yes: the included CD is Windows only, leading to one demerit in our rating. If you are a Windozer or run Virtual PC, your opinion of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition may be even higher than mine. Whatever your computer operating system, your cranial OS will be current to "version XYZABC" at the very least with this hardbound giant of brainware in your life.
Every so often a bonus page appears such as one with illustrating COLOR, with visible spectrum, additive and subtractive primary colors, and color diagrams. on page 365. A margin's illustrations can yield some fascinating neighbors, such as Pablo Picasso, Piccadilly Circus, pickax, and picket fence on page 1327. And on and on and on.
I give it Rating: 4 out of 5
John Nemerovski
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4.0 out of 5 stars Curious omissions mar an otherwise good effort Nov. 12 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Overall, I have been favorably impressed with "The American Heritage Dictionary," fourth edition (paperback). At under 1,000 pages, it strikes a good balance between compactness and comprehensiveness. But on closer look, I found some faults.
The dictionary's good points are plainly visible. It has an easy-on-the eyes arrangement. There are many good illustrative photographs. There are brief biographical and geographical entries interspersed among the general entries.
Now for the drawbacks. First: Where are the cuss words? That might seem like an odd criticism, but slang and vulgar words ARE a part of the English language--a part which, furthermore, often turns up in works of literature. I see no justification for leaving out the notorious "f-word" and its colorful brethren.
The dictionary is also oddly inconsistent in noting that some "acceptable" words also have uses as vulgar slang. Yes, the compilers note that "bitch" has a rude meaning in addition to its proper definition. But they fail to provide similar data for many comparable terms.
I also noted another curious flaw: the definitions of certain words derived from people's names (Kafkaesque, Wagnerian, etc.) are not given at all. These words are just tacked on as undefined appendages to the brief biographical entries. So if someone tells you that their life is a Kafkaesque nightmare and you don't know what they mean, this dictionary will be useless to you.
I just recently purchased this dictionary, but my early inspection of the product has certainly left me with some doubts. Hopefully the next edition will correct these problems, and other flaws that my fellow users discover.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT recommended (unless you have super-vision).
The type in this dictionary is microscopic. I realize they had to make it small to fit everything into the format, but it's rendered everything pretty much too small to be of... Read more
Published on Feb. 29 2012 by Stewart Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this Edition.
American Heritage is my favorite dictionary and I finally set my old one out to pasture and bought this edition four months ago. I have not been disappointed in the least. Read more
Published on June 26 2004 by Bernard Chapin
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleasant to use
What may be the most evident at first about this dictionary is the beautiful layout and the nice use of color. Read more
Published on May 3 2004 by sadhana444
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Dictionary
I first saw this dictionary in a bookstore. I'll admit I was initially drawn to it because it was on sale, but upon leafing through it I was impressed with its layout, design and... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2004 by Bruce Aguilar
5.0 out of 5 stars I like this dictionary!
I'll be short. This dictionary gives Indo-European roots for a lot of English terms. I find these Indo-European roots fascinating. Why are others not following along here? Read more
Published on May 30 2003 by Geoff Puterbaugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should own this dictionary!
I believe that this is the best dictionary I have ever owned. It contains slang terms that you can not find in other dictionaries.
Published on April 30 2003 by Jessica
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Get it!
I did get it. I ignored the negative reviews. Do yourself a favor, get this wonderful dictionary and you will feel, as I did, very happy with it. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2002 by Waltman
2.0 out of 5 stars You should expect this under researched, flawed junk from AH
The dictionary is a waste of money considering you can purchase a much better, thourough, and well researched and intelligent dictionary from Oxford. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2002 by Donald Kagen
5.0 out of 5 stars DUDE! It's a dictionary!
Sorry, I was bemused a moment ago when Amazon.com pointed out that I hadn't written a review for this dictionary, which I bought a few years ago.
What can I say? Read more
Published on May 22 2002 by Bob Robison
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