American English Dictionaries

English is a West Germanic language that serves as the global lingua franca, at least in today’s world. It originally came from England and spread throughout the countries that were part of the British Empire. American English is the variant of the English language that is spoken in the United States of America. Because America is this century’s global military, cultural, and entertainment superpower, its variant of the language is the most influential and most widely-understood worldwide.

If you are interested in learning American English or already learning it, you will find the list of dictionaries below helpful. As a tip, always consider the level of your English knowledge when buying dictionaries to make it easy for you to understand each word’s definitions, especially if the dictionary is monolingual. You do not have to buy all the dictionaries listed below. Only buy the ones that will be most helpful to you at this stage of your learning journey.

Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Visual Dictionary, Second Edition

Author/Editor: Jean Claude Corbeil
Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Edition No.: 2nd Revised Edition
Publication Date: October 2012

Book Description:

“A wonder to behold,” says Publishers Weekly about this new second edition of Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary. This book is an essential reference tool for any visual learner, curious kid, or student new to English. With 2,000 new and updated illustrations, including many from the fields of technology, medical equipment, and energy, it incorporates 25,000 terms and their definitions into 8,000 full-color illustrations. An index in the back helps learners locate information quickly. The book is divided into 18 chapters and 115 themes including a wide variety of fields like: astronomy, plants, food and kitchen, clothing, architecture, transportation and machinery, energy, society, sports and games. It is a perfect book for work, school, self-study, research or simple browsing.

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Oxford Picture Dictionary

Oxford Picture Dictionary Third Edition

Author/Editor: Jayme Adelson-Goldstein, Norma Shapiro
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Edition No.: 3rd Revised Edition
Publication Date: October 2016

Book Description:

The third edition of the best selling Oxford Picture Dictionary provides unparalleled support for vocabulary teaching to meet the needs of today’s English language learners. 4,000 English words and phrases with meaningful, real life contexts presented within 12 thematic units, including Everyday Language, People, Housing, Food, and Recreation. New and updated topics such as job search, career planning, and digital literacy equip students with the language they need for everyday success. Revised practice activities prepare students for work, academic study, and citizenship from the very beginning. Pre-reading questions build students’ previewing and predicting skills. High interest reading promote literacy skills. Post reading questions support critical thinking and textual analysis. Workbooks at three levels provide multilevel classroom support.

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English for Everyone: English Vocabulary Builder

English for Everyone: English Vocabulary Builder (US)

Author/Editor: DK
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Ltd
Edition No.:
Publication Date: January 2018

Book Description:

A combined reference book and workbook covering over 3,000 entries of essential words and phrases to expand your English vocabulary. Designed around the most up-to-date theories of language acquisition, English for Everyone: English Vocabulary Builder includes all the words and phrases English learners need to know. Question words, feelings, hairstyles, technology, seasons, entertainment, sports, and more are covered and illustrated, plus paired with audio in the accompanying app available for download. Readers can write their own translations and work through practice exercises to improve their English language skills. Ideal for ESL learners at all stages, from beginner to advanced.

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Merriam-Webster’s Essential Learner’s English Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Essential Learner's English Dictionary, Newest Edition

Author/Editor: Merriam-Webster
Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Edition No.: Newest Edition
Publication Date: May 2010

Book Description:

An all-new affordable dictionary designed to help students learn spoken and written English as it is actually used. More than 54,000 words and phrases. Coverage of both U.S. and British English and their differences. More than 15,000 idioms, collocations and commonly used phrases from American and British English. Clarifies definitions with over 74,000 example sentences and phrases. Usage guidance through extensive labeling (old fashioned, technical, informal, humorous, etc.) glosses (restatements to explain phrases); count and non-count labeling; usage notes; and usage paragraphs.

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Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, Newest Edition

Author/Editor: Merriam-Webster
Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Edition No.: 2nd Revised Edition
Publication Date: October 2016

Book Description:

Revised and Updated for 2016. Created by America’s foremost language experts, this dictionary is designed to help advanced students master spoken and written English, as it is actually used. Defines 100,000 words and phrases in plain English that is easy for learners to understand. Highlights 3,000 core vocabulary words – underlined in blue – that are essential for students to learn. 160,000 example sentences – the most of any learner’s dictionary – clarify meanings and are highlighted in blue for easy reading. Perfect for ESL, EFL, ELL, TEFL, TOEFL and TOEIC study and instruction. In-depth coverage of American English grammar and usage.

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Oxford American Dictionary for Learners of English

Oxford American Dictionary for Learners of English

Author/Editor: Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Edition No.:
Publication Date: December 2010

Book Description:

The Oxford American Dictionary for learners of English helps students understand the meanings of words and how to use them correctly. It includes 42,000 words, phrases and meanings and 35,000 examples to show how words are used. It marks the Oxford 3000 words (the most important words to know in English), content area vocabulary (math, social studies, science, etc), and Academic Word List words. The Oxford Writing Tutor (included in the print dictionary) and the Oxford iWriter on the CD-ROM show students how to plan, write and review different types of writing. The Oxford American Dictionary Vocabulary Builder, available separately, provides 50 lessons with 130 activities to consolidate and extend vocabulary.

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Oxford Advanced American Dictionary for Learners of English

Oxford Advanced American Dictionary for Learners of English

Author/Editor: Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Edition No.: 8th Edition
Publication Date: March 2011

Book Description:

The Oxford Advanced American Dictionary helps students understand the meanings of words and how to use them correctly. It includes 145,000 words, phrases and meanings and 85,500 examples to show how words are used. It marks the Oxford 3000 words (the most important words to know in English) and Academic Word List words (the words you need to study in English). The Oxford Writing Tutor (included in the print dictionary) and the Oxford iWriter on the CD-ROM show students how to plan, write and review different types of writing. The Oxford American Dictionary Vocabulary Builder, available separately, provides 50 lessons with 130 activities to consolidate and extend vocabulary.

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New Oxford American Dictionary

New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd Edition

Author/Editor: Angus Stevenson, Christine A Lindberg
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Edition No.: 3rd Revised Edition
Publication Date: September 2010

Book Description:

As Oxford’s flagship American dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary sets the standard of excellence for lexicography in this country. With more than 350,000 words, phrases, and senses, hundreds of explanatory notes, and more than a thousand illustrations, this dictionary provides the most comprehensive and accurate coverage of American English available.

The dictionary draws on the two-billion-word Oxford English Corpus and the unrivaled citation files of the world-renowned Oxford English Dictionary to provide the most accurate and richly descriptive picture of American English ever offered in any dictionary. The Third Edition offers a thoroughly updated text, with revisions throughout and approximately 2,000 new words, phrases, and meanings. Many new words relate to fast-moving areas such as computing, technology, current affairs, and ecology, while others have recently entered the popular lexicon. Usage notes have been updated in light of the most recent Corpus evidence, and a completely new in-text feature on Word Trends charts usage for rapidly changing words and phrases such as carbon, mobile, or tweet. In addition, the volume has an attractive, modern new text design that makes entries easier to read and find.

One of the hallmarks of the New Oxford American Dictionary is the way it reflects the living language. Unlike in more traditional dictionaries, where meanings are ordered chronologically according to the history of the language, each entry plainly shows the principal meaning or meanings of the word, organized by importance in today’s English. Thus readers can be confident that the first definition they see is the one most likely to be used by people today, and is not a sense that has been obsolete for two centuries.

Offering clear, authoritative, and precise information, with the in-depth and up-to-date coverage that users need and expect, the New Oxford American Dictionary is the benchmark by which all other American dictionaries are measured.

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Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition

Author/Editor: Merriam-Webster
Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Edition No.: 11th Edition
Publication Date: August 2019

Book Description:

Newly Revised & Updated! The Eleventh Edition of America’s Best-Selling Dictionary defines the current, active vocabulary of American English and is updated on an ongoing basis. More than 225,000 definitions and over 42,000 usage examples. Newly added words and meanings across a variety of fields including technology, entertainment, health, science, and society. Special sections include A Handbook of Style, Foreign Words and Phrases, Biographical Names, and Geographical Names. Includes an electronic version of the dictionary and a free one-year online subscription to Merriam-WebsterUnabridged.com. New words include binge-watch, clickbait, takeaway, and troll.

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Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus

Author/Editor: Merriam-Webster
Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Edition No.: Revised & Updated Edition
Publication Date: May 2014

Book Description:

Get two essential language references integrated into one handy mass-market size paperback volume. This national best seller offers 60,000 alphabetical dictionary entries and 13,500 thesaurus entries including extensive synonym lists and antonym lists. 500 new thesaurus entries have been added to cover new vocabulary. Clear and concise word guidance includes abundant example phrases. Based on the best-selling Merriam-Webster’s TMs Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.

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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Author/Editor: Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Edition No.: Fifth Edition / Fiftieth Anniversary Printing
Publication Date: October 2018

Book Description:

This is the fiftieth anniversary printing of The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language. This beloved dictionary has become the premier resource for anyone who wants to know precisely what words mean, where they come from, and how to use them effectively. It is renowned for presenting accurate and comprehensible definitions, etymologies based on the latest research, and authoritative usage guidance from the celebrated American Heritage Usage Panel. The fifth edition of the dictionary, published in 2011, included 10,000 new words and senses, as well as 4,000 new full-color images. This comprehensive update continues the tradition of exhaustive research and thorough review. Thousands of revisions to definitions and etymologies, 150 new words and senses, and new usage advice make this updated printing the most current print dictionary of its size available today. The American Heritage Dictionary combines clear, precise definitions with useful features that make it easier to choose your words and express yourself clearly. Your words really do define you. Make the most of them with the guidance of this respected work of reference.

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McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms Dictionary

McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Idioms Dictionary

Author/Editor: Richard A. Spears
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
Edition No.: 4th Edition
Publication Date: December 2006

Book Description:

Shape up your English with thousands of idioms. Whether you are a learner of English who is having difficulty understanding expressions in everyday speech or a native speaker who wants to expand your written or spoken range, you need a comprehensive reference for idioms, common phrases, and sayings of American English. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary shows you the ropes of English and helps you:
* Expand your English-speaking abilities with these 14,000-plus expressions, proverbs, and common sayings, listed alphabetically
* Use American idioms correctly by following the many helpful examples
* Easily find the right phrase by one of its key words

Some examples of the colorful English language, as spoken by Americans:
at peace — relaxed and happy
every trick in the book — every deceptive method known
Johnny-on-the-spot — someone who is in the right place at the right time
make a killing — to have a great success, especially in making money
nine-to-five job — a job with normal daytime hours
scream bloody murder — to complain bitterly
take a powder — to leave; to leave town

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Slang Rules!: A Practical Guide for English Learners

Slang Rules!: A Practical Guide for English Learners

Author/ Editor /Illustrator: Orin Hargraves, Anthony Jenkins
Publisher: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Edition No.: Newest Edition
Publication Date: September 2008

Book Description:

An American English slang guide. Explains which rules of grammar change (and are sometimes ignored), which words and phrases may be considered inappropriate or offensive, and common ways pronunciations changes when slang is used.

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Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus

Author/Editor: Christine Lindberg, Rick Moody, Ben Zimmer, David Auburn, Rae Armantrout, David Crystal, Michael Dirda, Bryan A Garner, Joshua Ferris, Alexandra Horowitz, David Lehman, Stephin Merritt
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Edition No.: 3rd Edition
Publication Date: August 2012

Book Description:

Much more than a word list, the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus is a browsable source of inspiration as well as an authoritative guide to selecting and using vocabulary. This essential guide for writers provides real-life example sentences and a careful selection of the most relevant synonyms, as well as new usage notes, hints for choosing between similar words, a Word Finder section organized by subject, and a comprehensive language guide. The text is also peppered with thought-provoking reflections on favorite (and not-so-favorite) words by noted contemporary writers, including Joshua Ferris, Francine Prose, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, and Simon Winchester, many newly commissioned for this edition. The third edition revises and updates this innovative reference, adding hundreds of new words, senses, and phrases to its more than 300,000 synonyms and 10,000 antonyms. New features in this edition include over 200 literary and humorous quotations highlighting notable usages of words, and a revised graphical word toolkit feature showing common word combinations base

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The British and American variants of the English language are essentially the same. However, it is advisable to stick to only one variant of the language in the early stages of your learning. While the grammar and spelling differences do not matter in general, consistency is very important. If you write an article and mix up the two spelling standards, you as the author will come off to native speakers of the language and educated readers as having poor grasp of the English language in general — even if the article has perfect grammar. There are also some words that differ in meaning and they could trip you up.