How does one background check dictionaries?

Just a thought. We consult dictionaries so much, how do we check which ones are credible? And more specifically, which words are defined right?

I was looking into the definition of “superstition” and Merriam-Webster included this:
2 : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
…as one of the definitions. I found this nowhere else. Is it right? How do I know?

Is it even possible to check? I know of people who don’t even trust online dictionaries. There’s so much stupidity on the internet already with wrong usage of words.

Dictionaries describe word usage and meaning. They cover whether it’s a verb/noun/adjective etc. and how the description of meaning may change depending on sentence structure. They may cover the “root” from where the word originated (language) and words are subject to evolve in usage, as well as “new” ones can form - others go extinct.

Like a book library :books: there are varieties and you can compare.

I prefer online dictionaries- there are many and you can easily get the meaning of the word usage. Some like to get “picky”…in which case, understanding a vast variety of words with nuances in meaning can come in handy…


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Many times I will insert a definition and it’s source in a post. It is up to other readers whether to agree, disagree, or modify what I have offered.

But I have no problems consulting multiple sources to verify agreement.

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Well I generally use the Oxford English dictionary, but if I need to cross reference I use Merriam Webster and or the Cambridge English dictionary. Though generally I find Googling the word with definition after it throws up several sources as well as the definition.

Also Google is good for contemporary slang and colloquialisms that are used by my fellow atheists Australians Americans Canadians etc…I can pretend I look cool and with it then, rather than looking more foolish than normal by asking outright.

True dat…:sunglasses:

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Credible? It takes a few years to create a half way decent dictionary from what I have read. Language changes at a fairly healthy rate. Even a good dictionary is going to get a lot of words wrong.

Another huge issue is professional usage of words. A definition in a Webster’s dictionary is not going to be the same as a definition in a psychological dictionary, philosophical dictionary, medical dictionary, legal dictionary or even a mechanical dictionary. Professions have their own nuance of meaning.

Words carry meaning. In any conversation it is important to clarify what is meant by the words being used. Dictionaries are not the absolute truth when it comes to absolute definitions. They help us to understand “usage.” Usage changes from profession to profession, from place to place. I currently call cell phones “Hand Phones.” Am I wrong? If I called them cell phones, no one would understand me. When I get back to the states, this habit will surely continue. Will the expression catch on? Will I return to calling the phone a cell phone? Who knows?

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Uh huh :slightly_smiling_face:

Right, right :point_right: :point_right:
Thank you

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That doesn’t work in a running argument though. If they disagree, I have to change everything. Including my own thoughts on the matter. And this is assuming they’re correct.

I see :laughing:
Fyi “true dat” is only used when you’re agreeing with someone else, not yourself but maybe it’s an exception in your case haha

Wow, you’re absolutely right. Thank you very much. On that note, it’s quite amazing how languages sustain themselves to intelligibility despite so much influence.

You are very correct. Many times in here debates degrade into arguments on definitions. But all I can do as one individual is offer a definition. If it is agreed on or not, I can not control that.

All I can do is offer a definition that hopefully is agreed on so everyone can work on a level playing field.

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Suppose so. Thank you.

If it is not agreed upon, you are not talking about the same thing. Option one, start talking about the same thing. Option 2, insist on your definition.

When it comes to Atheist vs Agnostic for example. I insist, agnosticism is not a separate entity and every time Dawkins opens his mouth on the subject I want to shove a sock down his throat. He really does not get that people can believe shit without knowing a damn thing about it.

Then I want to put my foot in the sock and shove real hard. TWIT!

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Yair. Discovered some time ago that Dawkins is apparently a competent evolutionary biologist, but not a top one. Pretty sure his claim of ‘a selfish gene’ has been challenged within his discipline

Nor is he much of a philosopher imo.

Although I’ve never actually heard him claim to be an atheist spokesperson, he allows others to make that claim.

Happy to listen to him about evolutionary biology. On anything else, not so much.


“Controversial British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is well-known for his criticism of religion, but a new Rice University study of British scientists reveals that a majority who mentioned Dawkins’ work during research interviews reject his approach to public engagement and said his work misrepresents science and scientists because he conveys the wrong impression about what science can do and the norms that scientists observe in their work.”

The full article linked below is worth a glance. I am not claiming the articles I have cited are definitive. I only claim that Richard Dawkins should not be taken on face value. Nor should any public intellectual.

“To begin with, I never bought his argument in The Selfish Gene (TSG), the book that (rightly) launched him as a top rate science popularizer, back in 1976. I read and appreciated the book for the first time a few years later (I was in middle school when it came out), but I always thought that his arch-rival, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, while himself an interesting, shall we say, character, was much closer to the mark. In a nutshell, TSG presents an exceedingly reductionist view of biology that is simply incapable, in my mind, of taking in the bewildering variety of biological phenomena that we have documented ever since Darwin. Dawkins’ focus on the gene level and only the gene level, his refusal to take seriously the idea of multi-level selection, his (later) casual dismissal of epigenetics, his ridicule of advances coming out of paleontology, his utter ignorance (judging from the fact that he hardly wrote about it at all) of important concepts like phenotypic plasticity, phenotypic accommodation, niche selection, robustness, and evolvability — to mention but a few — meant to me that his view of biology was hopelessly limited.”

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