Word Parts Dictionary

Sheehan, Michael J. Word Parts Dictionary: Standard and Reverse Listings of Prefixes, Suffixes, Roots, and Combining Forms. Second ed. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, 2008.

This is a rather specialized dictionary that will appeal to certain subpopulations of the logophile universe and will be a valuable addition to any reference library. It will chiefly be of interest to those who invent words, are avid crossword puzzle creators or fans, or are studying for a serious spelling bee competition. Those who routinely come across mysterious words that are not in standard dictionaries or who are trying to reconstruct dimly remembered words may also find it useful. But for most of us, the book will be of limited utility, as access to a good standard dictionary can give most of us the answers we seek in this arena.

Which is not to say that the Word Parts Dictionary isn’t an impressive effort. Sheehan divides the dictionary into three parts. The first is a straightforward alphabetic listing of prefixes, suffixes, combining forms, and common roots of compounds with their meaning and etymology. The second section is a reverse dictionary, where you can look up the meaning and find all the relevant affixes associated with the concept. The third organizes the entries into semantic categories, like colors, eating habits, shapes, and numbers.

So if you find yourself periodically puzzling over word roots, Sheehan’s dictionary may find a valuable place on your bookshelf.

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