The publication that includes a wide range of words and terms ordered in alphabetic form and whose purpose is consultation is known as dictionary . This compilation usually includes various types of information about each word, how its meaning (what it means), its etymological history, the way it is written and how it is pronounced. It should be noted, however, that a dictionary does not always present all this information.

Among the various types of dictionary, the most common is that of the language . These generalist dictionaries explain, precisely and briefly, the meaning of words. However, there are others, such as dictionaries etymological , from synonyms and antonyms , from Languages , specialized (for example of the computing Or the medicine ), from Doubts and of grammar (order the grammatical structures), among others.

One of the best known dictionaries is that of the Royal Spanish Academy , which is prepared by the agency in charge of dictating the rules that govern the Spanish language.

An encyclopedia can be associated with a dictionary, in that it is structured similarly, placing words alphabetically and offering knowledge about them; however it is important to note that they are not exactly the same, since a encyclopedia offers very detailed information about a concept or topic, while dictionaries present little data; For example, while the meanings of words are systematically explained in a dictionary, additional information about them is provided in an encyclopedia, analyzing them from a particular approach (medical, sociological, etc.).

Within generative grammar, the term dictionary refers to the lexical incorporation (of words, its pronunciation and meaning) that every speaker of a language possesses. It is also called lexicon.

History and types of dictionaries

In its origins the dictionary was an alphabetical compilation of the elements lexicons of a language that were accompanied by its definition. Currently it can be a reference book of a particular subject where words are grouped alphabetically but collected with an objective. For example the Medical Dictionary, consists of a Catalogue which offers knowledge about those words that have a place in the science of medicine and serves so that those who study or work in this area can consult on specific topics from a scientific perspective . It serves to know the usefulness of certain medications, elements, or even acquire knowledge about treatments for certain diseases.

The term used to define the same during the High Middle Ages, was glossarium ; in the late Middle Ages it was changed to that of vocabularium and dictionarium ; and slowly it was transformed until arriving at the present denomination: dictionary . Although the words vocabulary, glossary and lexicon can be used as a dictionary synonyms, there are clear differences between them.
A glossary It is a catalog of words little known or that have fallen into disuse or that belong to the same discipline.
Is called lexicon to the set of words that make up a language, also to the words belonging to the repertoire of voices of an author like "the lexicon of Gongora", for example.
For its part, vocabulary refers to the inventory that brings together a set of words, generally few, that are accompanied by reduced explanations. It is used at the end of a work to add the meaning of certain words; for example, in Cortázar's work, the meanings are usually attached to the Buenos Aires terms so that any Spanish speaker can understand them.

According to the nature of the words and the methodology they include, they can be of two types: diachronic dictionaries and synchronous dictionaries .

Diachronic dictionaries analyze the development of vocabulary of a particular language over a period of time . They can be historical (they study the evolutionary phases that concern the meaning and use of a word) or etymological (they analyze the phonetic and semantic changes of a lexicon from its origins. They usually group the words that derive from the same ethic)

Synchronous dictionaries collect the lexicon of a particular language in a specific period of time . They may be: monolingual (single language words with their respective meanings), multilingual (establish equivalences between terms of two or more languages), encyclopedic (words of a language with its meanings and related articles to complement the knowledge about each one), technicians or scientists (meaning of the words of a specific scientific discipline) or of abbreviations (Acronyms, acronyms and formal shortening of certain terms of a language).

Other meanings related to the term:

A biographical dictionary It brings together the lives of certain related people in alphabetical way to develop the same activity. For example, a biographical dictionary of classical authors offers knowledge about the biography of those writers whose work enjoys popularity and is considered fundamental to universal literature.

A Dictionary of synonyms and antonyms It is a book that offers words arranged alphabetically with terms that have the same and the opposite meaning, in a particular language.

A dictionary of doubts collects terms and expressions that no longer mean the same as before, so their meaning in a language dictionary is outdated.

In a grammar dictionary Grammatical structures are ordered, with examples of correct and incorrect uses.

In short, a dictionary is a reference book where the characteristics of the words of a given subject are explained in an orderly manner and serves to learn meaning of the words or expand knowledge of the lexicon of a particular area.

Some phrases where the term is present: "I don't know if that word is written with S or with Z: I'm going to check in the dictionary", "When I was a kid, I liked to read the dictionary and learn new concepts", "I am going to give Juan a legal dictionary, so he can use it when he starts to study.".

Finally, it should be noted that the science dedicated to developing the contents of dictionaries is called lexicography . However, it should be noted that the data presented usually vary according to the type of dictionary. In general, the work is published in the form of printed book , although they also exist electronic versions .