The distinguished lexicographer Sidney Landau defines an unabridged dictionary as one that gives “full coverage to the lexicon in general use at a particular time in the history of the language, and substantial coverage to specialized lexicons.”¹ An example is Webster's Third New International Dictionary, with 450,000 words. For the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary is in a class by itself.

Semi-unabridged or College

Clarence Barnhart² (writing in 1978) defined these as containing 130,000 to 150,000 entries; Sidney Landau (1989), 150,000 to 170,000 entries. William Safire considers “college-size” or “collegiate” to mean “about 1500 pages”3. An example is Webster's Tenth New Collegiate Dictionary.


60,000 to 100,000 words, abbreviated definitions, fewer senses of individual words.


40,000 to 60,000 words, very abbreviated definitions.

1. Sidney I. Landau.
Dictionaries. The Art and Craft of Lexicography.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

See pages 17 and 18.

2. Clarence Barnhart.
“American Lexicography, 1947-1973.”
American Speech, volume 53 no. 2 (Summer 1978).

Page 115.

3. New York Times, Dec. 3, 1995.

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