Word of the Day


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a detailed collection of information on a particular subject, especially in a short book

Origin and usage

Compendium comes from the Latin word ‘compendium’ which literally means ‘that which is weighed together’, and by extension a profit or saving. It was first used in English with its current meaning of a concise but detailed collection of information in the late 16th century. It has two plurals: compendiums and compendia, but is most frequently used in the singular.


A compendium is usually a concise but detailed summary of information about a particular subject, designed for reference. A compendium can be on any subject from medicine to law, from statistics and education to scientific topics. Compendium also appears in the titles of works on less academic subjects, such as cooking, folklore and even magic. Inevitably compendia are no longer purely printed works, but have gone online like all other reference materials. As well as being a collection of information, a compendium can also be a collection of things: many homes contain a compendium of games, which is box containing a range of popular board games from chess to snakes and ladders.


“Science is a method for testing claims about the natural world, not an immutable compendium of absolute truths.”
(Stephen Jay Gould)

Related words

anthology, companion, primer

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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