Useful English References


The New World of Words: Or, Universal English Dictionary. Compiled by Edward Phillips, Gent. Seventh edition, revised, corrected, and improved by J. K., Philobibl., 1720. Headwords in blackletter. —The basis of Bailey's, below.

Dictionarium Britannicum: Or a more Compleat Universal Etymological English Dictionary than any Extant.
By N. Bailey, philologos. —Before Johnson's Dictionary, Bailey's was the best and most complete English dictionary available, and Johnson kept it by him as he assembled his own work. We do not know why the second and third editions were in print after the fifth edition had already been published.

Revis'd and Improv'd, 1730.

Fifth Edition, 1731 (a poor copy).

Second edition (one volume), 1736.

Third edition, 1737.

Eighth edition, 1737.

Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary
. —This book set the standard for English pronunciation for many years. Both English and American speakers regulated themselves by it, and Walker's pronunciations were incorporated into Worcester's successful and influential dictionary. A Victorian who pronounced the language according to Walker's could always be sure of being perfectly correct.

New York Stereotype Edition, 1823.

Worcester’s Dictionary. —The chief rival to Webster’s, Worcester’s was preferred by many American writers through most of the nineteenth century. Worcester was more conservative; Webster began the tradition of confrontationally populist lexicography that is still maintained by his successors at Merriam-Webster. Worcester’s assumption was that good English was the same on both sides of the Atlantic; Webster encouraged the development of a distinctly American language.

Joseph Emerson Worcester

A Dictionary of the English Language by Joseph E Worcester, LL.D., with supplement, containing over 12,500 new words and entries, and a vocabulary of synonymes of words in general use. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1884. —This carries an American copyright notice from J. P. Lippincott for 1881, so it is probably an English reprint of that edition.

A Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language, to which are added Walker's Key to the pronunciation of classical and scripture proper names, much enlarged and improved; and A pronouncing vocabulary of modern geographical names. By Joseph E. Worcester. Boston: Wilkins, Carter, and Company, 1847.

A Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language, with vocabularies of classical, scripture, and modern geographical names. Revised, with important additions. Boston: Hickling, Swan, and Brewer; Cleveland: Ingham and Bragg, 1858.

A Dictionary of the English Language. By Joseph E. Worcester, LL.D. Boston: Hickling, Swan, and Brewer, 1860.

An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. By the Rev. Walter W. Skeat, M.A. Oxford, 1882. —Dr. Skeat was probably the greatest scholar in the history of English etymology, and in this dictionary he not only gives us the histories of English words but also shows his work, explaining in any doubtful case how he reached his conclusions.

First edition, 1882.

Second and revised edition, 1885.

1888 edition.

Fourth edition, further revised, with enlarged supplement, 1896.
Another copy, dated 1898.

Third edition, 1898.

New edition, re-written and re-arranged, 1901.

The Century Dictionary, 1889-1895. —Certainly the most ambitious work of lexicography America ever produced. It’s an alternate-universe dictionary, which includes much of what other dictionaries banish to the encyclopedia.

Vol. I: A to Celticism, Kelticism

Vol. II: Celticize to drool.

Vol. III: droop to gyves.

Vol. IV: H to lyverey.

Vol. V: M to pharmacolite.

Vol. VI: pharmacological to salse.

Vol. VII: salsify to technical.

Vol. VIII: technicality to Zyxomma.

Etymological and Pronouncing Dictionary of Difficult Words. By the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer. London: Ward, Lock, &Co., [1882]. —“The object of this Dictionary is not to collect together all the words employed in the language, nor to furnish an exhaustive list of the several meanings of each word, but simply to call attention to errors of speech and spelling made, not by the uneducated, but by those who wish to speak and spell correctly.”

A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, obsolete phrases, proverbs, and ancient customs, from the fourteenth century. By James Orchard Halliwell. Brixton Hill: printed for private circulation only, 1852.

Vol. I: A-I.

Vol. II: J-Z.

Ninth Edition. London: John Russell Smith, 1878.

Vol. I: A-I.

Vol. II: J-Z.

There are editions up to at least an eleventh, but the ninth is the last we could find complete on line.

Supplementary English Glossary, by T. Lewis O. Davies. London: George Bell & Sons, 1881. —It began as a series of notes on slips of paper stuck in a copy of Halliwell (above), but Mr. Davies decided to publish when he reached more than seven hundred printed pages’ worth of supplementary notes. “I determined then not to confine myself to archaic and provincial words, which were what Mr. Halliwell undertook to register, but to insert any expressions, whether old or modern, which were not in the best existing Dictionaries.”

An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language. By John Jamieson, D.D. Edinburgh, 1808. —In effect a Scottish-English dictionary, the definitions being given in standard English.

Volume I.

Volume II.

Universal Pronouncing Dictionary of Biography and Mythology,
by J. Thomas, 1915 (the fourth edition). —This is the book you need when you want the real English pronunciations of foreign names like Haydn (pronounced Hā-dn rather than Hī-dn).

Volume 1

Volume 2

Blackguardiana; or, a Dictionary of Rogues, Bawds, Pimps, Whores, Pickpockets, Shoplifters, Mail-Robbers, Coiners, House-Breakers, Murderers, Pirates, Gipsies, Mountebanks, &c., &c. Credited by the librarian to James Caulfield, 1793.

Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Giving the derivation, source, or origin of common phrases, allusions, and words that habe a tale to tell. By the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer. London, New York, Toronto, Melbourne: Cassell and Company, [1922].


The New Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases classified and arranged so as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Based on the classic work of P. M. Roget. Edited by C. O. Sylvester Mawson. New York: Current Literature Publishing Company, 1911.

Style Guides

The Magazine Style-Code; a manual for the guidance of authors, reporters ... and all who write. Largely codified from the system of Theodore Low De Vinne, from the Century magazine, the Century Company's books, and the treatises of F. Horace Teall. 1906.

Text, Type and Style: A Compendium of Atlantic Usage. By George B. Ives. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921.

Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms: A guide to correct writing with approved methods in speaking and action in the various relations of life. By Thos. E. Hill. Chicago: Hill Standard Book Co, 1887. —There is a proper way to say or do anything, and Mr. Hill will teach it to you, from wedding invitations to apprenticeship forms to epitaphs to “how to call, organize and conduct public assemblages” to how to be the Secretary of the United States Treasury. This is an immense and immensely useful book, with many illustrations. It seems to have sold very well, since many copies are on line; it was probably marketed through canvassing agents, and we suppose the sample copy was good enough for the dullest traveling man to make a sale.
Another copy.
Another copy.
Another copy.


Cyclopædia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences : containing the definitions of the terms, and accounts of the things signify'd thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine : the figures, kinds, properties, productions, preparations, and uses, of things natural and artificial : the rise, progress, and state of things ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial : with the several systems, sects, opinions, &c : among philosophers, divines, mathematicians, physicians, antiquaries, criticks, &c : the whole intended as a course of antient and modern learning. By E. Chambers, Gent. London, 1728. —The link above goes to a page with both original volumes and the posthumous Supplement of 1783 in excellent scans, but with cumbersome navigation, at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.The links below go to copies at

Vol. I.

Vol. II.

A Supplement to Mr. Chambers's Cyclopaedia: or, Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences. London, 1753.

Vol. I.

Vol. II.

Encyclopedia Americana (1903-1904). As often happens, it is impossible to find all the volumes at Google Books, but when we find the missing volumes elsewhere, they are digitized by Google. It would be delightful if Google could come up with some method of accounting for multiple-volume sets, as Hathi Trust does.

1 (A to Aromatics) (at Hathi Trust).

2 (Aromatic Vinegar to Black, Joseph)

3 (Black, William, to Campomanes, Pedro Rodriguez)

4 (Campos, Arsenio Martinez, to Clarence, George)

5 (Clarence Harbor to Czuczor, Gergely)

6 (D to Emerson)

7 (Emerton, Ephraim, to Georgian, or Ibernian, or Grusinian)

8 (Geotropism to India Rubber)

9 (Indian, Education of the, to Lorca)

10 (Lord to Munich)

11 (Municipal Accounting to Paombong)

12 (Papacy to Prohibitive Duties)

13 (Projectiles to Ruddy Duck)

14 (Rude, François, to Spawn-Eater)

15 (Speaker to United Society of Believers) (at Hathi Trust).

16 (United States to Zymotic Disease)