The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD) is a dictionary of American English published by Boston publisher Houghton-Mifflin.
The AHD dictionary broke ground among dictionaries by using corpus linguistics in compiling word-frequency and other information. The AHD made the innovative step of combining prescriptive elements (how language should be used) and descriptive information (how it actually is used); the latter was derived from text corpora. Citations were based on a million word, three-line citation database prepared by Brown University linguist Henry Kucera.
The third edition was also a new departure for the publisher because it was developed in a database, which facilitated the use of the linguistic data for other applications, such as electronic dictionaries.
The AHD is larger than the desk dictionaries of the time but smaller than Webster's Third or The Random-House Dictionary of the English Language.
There is a lower-priced college edition with monocolor printing. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Heritage_Dictionary_of_the_English_Language [Oct 2004]
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
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... read more
The all-new Fourth Edition of the American HeritageŽ 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 HeritageŽ 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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