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Dictionary vs. Glossary: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
A dictionary is a comprehensive collection of words and their meanings, while a glossary is a list of terms specific to a certain field or subject, often found at the end of a book.
Dictionary vs. Glossary

Key Differences

A dictionary is a comprehensive reference book that lists words of a language and provides their meanings, pronunciations, etymologies, and other information. In contrast, a glossary is a list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with definitions for those terms.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 01, 2023
While a dictionary covers a broad spectrum of words from a language, a glossary focuses on terms specific to a certain field or subject, explaining jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the general reader.
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Dictionaries are often used for language learning and understanding the general usage of words, including their various contexts and connotations. Glossaries, however, are typically found at the end of textbooks or technical manuals, aiding in understanding specialized language.
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The content of a dictionary is usually vast and includes words from various fields, historical periods, and levels of formality. A glossary, however, is more concise and limited to the scope of the subject matter it accompanies.
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Dec 01, 2023
Dictionaries often include phonetic transcriptions to guide pronunciation, whereas glossaries usually do not focus on pronunciation but rather on concise definitions within a specific context.
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Comparison Chart

Scope

Broad, covering an entire language
Specific to a subject or field
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Purpose

Provides definitions, pronunciations, etymologies
Clarifies terms specific to a text or field
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Pronunciation Guide

Often included
Rarely included
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Usage Context

General use for language understanding
Specific to a subject area, often academic or technical
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Length and Detail

Extensive, with detailed entries
Concise, focused on subject-relevant terms
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Dictionary and Glossary Definitions

Dictionary

A dictionary is a book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language and gives their meaning.
She looked up the word 'obfuscate' in the dictionary.
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Glossary

A glossary is a list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with definitions for those terms.
The science textbook included a glossary of technical terms.
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Dictionary

It's a reference tool providing information about the meanings, pronunciations, and correct usage of words.
The English teacher recommended using a dictionary to improve vocabulary.
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Glossary

A glossary is often found at the end of academic books, helping clarify subject-specific terminology.
She referred to the glossary in her history book to understand archaic terms.
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Dictionary

A dictionary can also include information about word origins, synonyms, and antonyms.
He used a dictionary to find synonyms for 'happy.'
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Glossary

It provides concise definitions of keywords and phrases used in a particular text or field.
The glossary in the cookbook defined various cooking techniques.
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Dictionary

A dictionary may also provide idiomatic expressions and phrases.
The phrase 'kick the bucket' was explained in the idiomatic section of the dictionary.
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Glossary

A glossary aids readers in understanding specialized or technical language within a text.
The legal document was easier to understand with the help of the glossary.
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Dictionary

A reference work containing an alphabetical list of words, with information given for each word, usually including meaning, pronunciation, and etymology.
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Oct 19, 2023

Glossary

It's a specialized dictionary with terms relevant to a specific subject or field.
The computer manual's glossary explained technical jargon.
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Dec 01, 2023

Dictionary

A reference work containing an alphabetical list of words in one language with their translations in another language.
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Oct 19, 2023

Glossary

A list of often difficult or specialized words with their definitions, often placed at the back of a book.
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Dictionary

A reference work containing an alphabetical list of words in a particular category or subject with specialized information about them
A medical dictionary.
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Oct 19, 2023

Glossary

A list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with their definitions.
At the back of the book you can find the glossary.
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Oct 19, 2023

Dictionary

A list of words stored in machine-readable form for reference, as by spelling-checking software.
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Glossary

A collection of glosses or explanations of words and passages of a work or author; a partial dictionary of a work, an author, a dialect, art, or science, explaining archaic, technical, or other uncommon words.
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Dictionary

A reference work with a list of words from one or more languages, normally ordered alphabetically, explaining each word's meanings (sense), and sometimes also containing information on its etymology, pronunciation, usage, semantic relations, and translations, as well as other data.
If you want to know the meaning of a word, look it up in the dictionary.
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Glossary

An alphabetical list of technical terms in some specialized field of knowledge; usually published as an appendix to a text on that field
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Oct 19, 2023

Dictionary

A synchronic dictionary of a standardised language held to only contain words that are properly part of the language.
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Dictionary

(by extension) Any work that has a list of material organized alphabetically; e.g., biographical dictionary, encyclopedic dictionary.
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Dictionary

(computing) An associative array, a data structure where each value is referenced by a particular key, analogous to words and definitions in a dictionary (sense 1).
Hash table
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Dictionary

(transitive) To look up in a dictionary.
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Dictionary

(transitive) To add to a dictionary.
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Oct 19, 2023

Dictionary

To compile a dictionary.
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Dictionary

A book containing the words of a language, arranged alphabetically, with explanations of their meanings; a lexicon; a vocabulary; a wordbook.
I applied myself to the perusal of our writers; and noting whatever might be of use to ascertain or illustrate any word or phrase, accumulated in time the materials of a dictionary.
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Oct 19, 2023

Dictionary

Hence, a book containing the words belonging to any system or province of knowledge, arranged alphabetically; as, a dictionary of medicine or of botany; a biographical dictionary.
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Oct 19, 2023

Dictionary

A reference book containing an alphabetical list of words with information about them
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Oct 19, 2023

Dictionary

It's a resource for understanding the grammatical use of words.
The dictionary indicated that 'run' is both a noun and a verb.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is a glossary?

A glossary is a list of terms found in a particular domain of knowledge, providing definitions specifically for those terms.
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Where is a glossary usually found?

Glossaries are typically found at the end of academic or technical books.
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Are glossaries subject-specific?

Yes, glossaries focus on terms specific to a particular field or subject.
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Are dictionaries available in both print and digital formats?

Yes, dictionaries can be found in both print and various digital formats.
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Does a dictionary include pronunciation guides?

Yes, most dictionaries provide phonetic transcriptions to assist with pronunciation.
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Dec 01, 2023

Do glossaries contain general language words?

No, glossaries usually contain terms specific to the text or field they accompany.
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What is a dictionary?

A dictionary is a reference book or online resource that lists words of a language and provides their meanings, pronunciations, and sometimes etymologies.
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Dec 01, 2023

Can dictionaries include slang and colloquialisms?

Yes, many modern dictionaries include slang and colloquial expressions.
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Are glossaries common in textbooks?

Yes, particularly in academic and technical textbooks.
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Is a glossary as detailed as a dictionary?

No, glossaries are typically more concise and limited to specific terms.
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How often are dictionaries updated?

Many dictionaries are updated regularly to include new words and meanings.
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Do dictionaries include idiomatic expressions?

Some dictionaries include sections on idioms and phrases.
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Do glossaries explain the context of terms?

Glossaries provide definitions, sometimes with brief contextual explanations.
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Do dictionaries provide word origins?

Many dictionaries provide etymologies, explaining the origins of words.
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Can I rely on a dictionary for accurate pronunciation?

Yes, especially if it includes phonetic transcriptions.
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Are all dictionaries the same?

No, dictionaries vary in size, scope, and the depth of information provided.
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Can glossaries be found in fiction books?

Occasionally, especially if the fiction uses specific or invented terms.
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Are online dictionaries as reliable as print ones?

Many online dictionaries are reliable and often more up-to-date than print versions.
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Are glossaries used for language learning?

Glossaries are more used for understanding specific jargon rather than for general language learning.
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Do glossaries include antonyms and synonyms?

Glossaries typically focus on definitions, not on antonyms or synonyms.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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