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The dictionary that keeps on growing: a new update for Macmillan Dictionary

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Macmillan Dictionary just got bigger and better than ever. In our latest release we have added well over 600 new entries, along with many new senses and phrases. So how come there are so many new things to add? Surely the English language hasn’t grown that much since our last release in late 2017?

When it was a paper dictionary, Macmillan Dictionary had a useful supplement listing Geographical Names and Nationalities. These entries were formatted very differently from standard dictionary entries and so they didn’t make it into the electronic version when the dictionary went online. However, we noticed from looking at failed searches of the dictionary that our users were looking up names of countries and, on the whole, not finding them. So we decided to add these entries – just under 200 of them – to the dictionary, but in a greatly expanded form.  Since we were able to draw on our sister publication, the Palgrave Macmillan Statesman’s Yearbook 2018, we have been able to give accurate and up-to-date information about a country’s population, geographical extent, flag, currency and languages, as well as the usual information you would expect to find in a dictionary, such as pronunciation and IPA. Take a look at one of them, for example Slovenia, to see what I mean.



Since we were adding the names of countries it seemed logical to add the names of languages and nationalities, so they are in there too, more than 250 of them, from Afar to Zarma and from Albanian to Zimbabwean. Of course there are thousands of languages spoken in the world so we have had to be selective; but if you speak a language that isn’t in the dictionary let us know via a comment, and we will try to add it.

Just in case you might think that Macmillan Dictionary is going full-on encyclopedic, we have added many new words and senses as well. Our coverage of legal terms, which was already extensive, has been boosted by around 50 new entries and senses, thanks to the work of our legal consultant Kevin Pike. They include terms such as direct intent, oblique intent and in limine that are only used in law, new legal senses for words such as bundle, and phrases such as read someone their rights and unfit to plead.

Along with this specialist material, the new words and senses that come into English all the time, or come into more frequent use, have not been forgotten. So we have added entries for backstop (sense three of which is much talked about in discussions about Brexit), digital footprint, post-truth and post-fact, pound shop (including the increasingly common figurative use) and dollar store; new phrasal verb meanings like lean in, feed back, and speak to; new meanings for words like grown-up and grip; and new phrases such as kick the can down the road and sit on your hands. For good measure we have added entries for the planets, with Word Stories about the origins of their names and some rather beautiful images: check out Mars and Saturn. We have also updated our entry for casting couch, which was previously rather lighthearted, to reflect changed attitudes in the age of #MeToo. Many of these new words and meanings come to us via the Open Dictionary, whose contributors are acknowledged by a note saying who submitted the entry and when.

As Editor-in-Chief Michael Rundell notes, “Macmillan Dictionary continues to expand – in both size and scope – and much of this growth is driven by our users. The growing band of contributors to the Open Dictionary play a big part in ensuring that we stay fully up-to-date, and that the dictionary accurately reflects emerging trends in the language. At the same time, records of users’ searches – including cases where they don’t find what they are looking for – provide us with evidence of what people really need to find in their dictionary. We do our best to respond to these needs, and the new coverage of countries, languages, and nationalities in this release is a good example of that process. Dictionaries are never complete. They are always a ‘work in progress’, and our goal is to continue to serve our users by making Macmillan Dictionary bigger and better all the time”.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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