Dictionary Skills


Course title: Dictionary Skills / Contact hours: 2

References: Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (A.S. Hornby et.al eds.)

Use Your Dictionary: A Practice Book for Users of Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary

Dictionaries. The Art and Craft of Lexicography, CUP

Linguistics and Bilingual Dictionaries, Al-kasimi, Leiden, E. J. Brill.

A Thesaurus

A Specialized Dictionary

Two Bilingual Dictionaries


Looking up words in monolingual dictionaries

Learning word pronunciation, stress, spelling, class, and meaning

Developing the reflex that there is no perfect synonymy and being aware of shades of meaning when writing, speaking, and translating

Using efficiently a bilingual dictionary

Developing caution in using a bilingual or specialized dictionary


Content and objectives

The aim of this course is to familiarize students with visual aids and symbols, abbreviations, order of entries, and cross-references used in dictionaries. The course focuses in particular on dictionary use and its relations to (i)- writing, e.g. alternative spellings, inflected forms, acronyms and abbreviations, word divisions, (ii)- speaking, e.g. sounds, phonetic symbols of consonants, vowels, stress, (iii) grammar, e.g. countable/uncountable nouns, regular/irregular noun plurals, plural occurrences, comparative/superlative forms, etc., and (iv)- semantic information, e.g. correct definition, meaning of phrasal and prepositional verbs, prefixes and suffixes, compounds. In addition to the use of monolingual dictionaries, the course also introduces the students to other kinds of dictionaries, such as etymological, pronouncing, and synonym dictionaries.


The course has other long-term objectives. It prepares students for the future translation courses. It also provides them with some basic terms and notions that they will develop in the linguistics courses.


Weekly schedule and Skills to Be Developed

Weeks 1 & 2

Phonetic symbols in dictionaries

Word transcription and stress

Alternative pronunciations


Weeks 3 & 4

Word classes


Abbreviations for word classes

Prefixes, suffixes, infixes and meaning change




Weeks 5 & 6

Word Entries, Multiple meanings


Illustrations and exemplifications

Synonyms, antonyms, formation of opposite words,

Homographs, homophones


Midterm test


Weeks 7 & 8

Using a bilingual dictionary

A comparison of bilingual dictionaries

Equivalence and non-equivalence in a bilingual dictionary


Weeks 9 & 10

Phrasal verbs and their equivalents in Arabic and in English

Similes, metaphors, proverbs and their equivalents

Midterm test


Weeks 11 & 12

Using a thesaurus

Etymology dictionaries; their significance and use


Weeks 13 & 14

Using a specialized dictionary

Final exam


Note: Students have hands on experience in using different dictionaries. A number of exercises is given at the end of every session as homework. The homework is then discussed and checked in the session that follows.