Looking up words in dictionary

todpose   Thu Jun 21, 2007 5:34 pm GMT
When I read literary works and come across words I don't know, I first try to guess the meaning of words by looking at the context. But most of the time, especially when reading very high-level, abstruse novels like Moby Dick and Decameron, this method fails and leaves me with an uncomfortable and irritable feeling, forcing me to look up all those words in the dictionary. But then, as I flip through the dictionary to learn new words, an hour goes by in a second; I end up reading only one or three pages in an hour, not covering the novel as much as I wanted to. What could be a solution to this?
Skippy   Thu Jun 21, 2007 6:13 pm GMT
Get a Thesaurus... When you come across a word you don't know, underline it, look in the thesaurus under the word for a synonym that you do know and write that small above the word in the book you don't know...
Guest   Thu Jun 21, 2007 6:29 pm GMT
Buy a merriam webster electronic dictionary from Franklin dictionary store. The dictionary contains thesaraus as well if a definition is not clear to understand.


Flipping through any sort of paper book is a pain in the neck.
JP   Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:31 pm GMT
I would say that if the word isn't essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence, simply write it down and look it up later. But if nothing is making sense without it, then I would look it up immediately.

By the way, flipping through a paper dictionary can be a very good way to learn new words. To me, one of the main disadvantages of using an electronic dictionary is that it makes it is all but impossible to learn serendipitously.
furrykef   Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:55 pm GMT
You can still flip through an electronic dictionary in your idle time. I used to do that all the time.
JP   Sat Jun 23, 2007 1:01 am GMT
The only electronic dictionaries I am familiar with are the ones where you type in the word you need to know, and it spits back a definition.

What usually happens to me is that I'll go to look up a word, and while I'm looking for it, I'll find two or three other entries that catch my eye, and read them because they look interesting. Then I'll keep on going until I find either more interesting words, or what I was originally looking for.

This can be lots of fun, and is how I learned (among other things) the meaning of the word "deipnosophist."
Guest   Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:58 am GMT
Such words only good for representing how stupid you are. Learn easy and useful words so that you can use them in your real life and you can pronounce them correctly. Good learning is time efficient not time wasting! I tried to learn words directly from a dictionary just to forget them later. Learning of words in real context is the way to go. When you look up a word while you are reading , you know that, that word is useful and used by native speakers and learning words at random does not have such an advantage and we just don't know how frequently they are used and what is their usefulness.
JP   Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:10 am GMT
That depends on what you are reading; nineteenth century novels use many obscure words that are not used very often, if at all, by today's native speakers.

And no, it is not stupid to enjoy enriching your vocabulary with interesting words, even if they are somewhat arcane. But part of this enrichment is knowing when it is appropriate to use them. Of course, every day conversation is one thing, but sometimes when I am writing, the word that will best express what I wish to convey is not always one that would be considered particularly easy or otherwise useful.

Finally, good learning is not always time-efficient, which is part of the reason it usually takes years of study to learn anything worthwhile extremely well. And if you are learning, you are scarcely wasting time.