The Century Dictionary Online
Posted: 23 July 2007 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I found references to The Century Dictionary Online which is promoted as being the largest free online dictionary—let me double check that—“largest freely available online dictionary”

It requires something called the DjVu plug-in, again promoted as free.

Is anyone familiar with The Century Dictionary Online? The DjVu plug-in?

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Posted: 23 July 2007 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It doesn’t require the plug-in—it says it’s needed for “full functionality”: it “allows you to navigate through the entire dictionary, zoom, pan, and print the pages, magnify selected sections, and search for words on the page.” I didn’t download it and have been using the dictionary perfectly happily.  It’s a great dictionary (if over a century old); you can read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_Dictionary.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s a great dictionary for historical linguistics research. It’s terribly antiquated and completely unsuitable for general use. Great in its day, but dictionaries, like any non-fiction book, doesn’t wear the years well.

I have mixed feelings about putting old dictionaries (and other language resources, like grammar manuals) online. On the one hand, its great to have them readily available and free. On the other, I’m afraid the general public will choose them over up-to-date dictionaries (which often charge).

There are several excellent and free up-to-date dictionaries available online. Such as Merriam Webster’s Collegiate, but that’s reasonable) and American Heritage. For most purposes, either of these will be far superior to a 100-year-old dictionary, no matter how great it was way back when.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve installed DejaVu for the Century Dictionary and at least one other old-document site (but I can’t remember which).  Some of its features don’t work well (or at all) with Firefox for Mac (my preferred browser); IIRC it plays nicer with Internet Explorer (my least preferred browser, and no longer supported for Mac.)

I agree with LH and DW: the Century Dictionary is a great resource if you’re interested in the state of English 100 years ago.  It’s a poor substitute for a modern dictionary, though if you’re looking for a very obscure word and have no other access to a big unabridged dictionary, it might be worth a try.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t like the attitude that the general public is too stupid to be allowed access to such things.  The more reference sources available, the better, and the Century may be out of date, but it’s infinitely better than the gee-whiz “word sites” that clutter the web.  And it’s got far more words than M-W Collegiate and the AHD, much as I love those.  If Webster’s Third were freely available, then sure, people should go to that in preference to Century.  But it’s not.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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For those interested in historical dictionaries the Internet Archive is building up an impressive collection (link below) including OED1 (up to about vol. 7, I believe), Universal Dictionary of the English Language (Hunter and Morris), Ogilvie’s Imperial Dictionary and many more.

I don’t know what went wrong with that link, it points somewhere else now. Give me a moment to fix it.

That’s decidedly odd. This link goes to the wrong place, maybe someone can figure out why.

http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=subject:"English%20language:%20Dictionaries"

To get to the list go to this page

http://www.archive.org/index.php

Type ‘English language dictionaries’ into the search box.

[ Edited: 24 July 2007 08:20 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 24 July 2007 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The link-generating feature sometimes inserts gratuitous ampersand codes into URLs, for reasons I don’t understand.  I think http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=subject:English%20language:%20Dictionaries
is what aldi was trying to do.

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Posted: 24 July 2007 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thank you, doc, that’s just the job!

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Posted: 25 July 2007 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I don’t like the attitude that the general public is too stupid to be allowed access to such things.

That’s not how I phrased it and it’s not my opinion either. Stupidity has nothing to do with it. It’s ignorance of what constitutes a good dictionary. Most people don’t have a clue as to what goes into creating a good dictionary and how to tell a good one from a bad one. If Webster’s Third were available for free, I’m not sure that people would chose it over the Century. (And Webster’s Third is getting a bit long in the tooth, too.)

And take a look at the copy on the Century Dictionary home page. The online publishers are clearly positioning it as general purpose dictionary, suitable for such use today. If they talked about it being a valuable historical document, as opposed to “10,000 pages!—More than 500,000 definitions!” that would be another thing.

[Also, I just moved this thread to the General Discussion forum.]

[ Edited: 25 July 2007 06:54 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 25 July 2007 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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And take a look at the copy on the Century Dictionary home page. The online publishers are clearly positioning it as general purpose dictionary, suitable for such use today.

Yeah, you definitely have a point there.  They really should point out that the Century Dictionary is a century old.

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