American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
The American Heritage dictionary reflects new words and contemporary usages in print faster than most other dictionaries. It aims to present the English language as it is now used, rather than in the more strictly traditional form of established English found in the Oxford English Dictionary of the English Language.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition, is avaialble online from the American Heritage website or from book vendors such as Amazon. The American Heritage dictionary online has over 90,000 entries, and is searchable in a variety of ways. You can ask for full text, definition, etymology, entries with notes and articles. As well, Roget's II: The New Thesaurus is available through hyperlinks to dictionary entries. You can also browse through the illustrations.
The online dictionary can be somewhat confusing to use. When you type in an entry word, you are given a list of sentences using that word. Once you decide which sentence seems to be closest in meaning to the word you want, you click on the entry, and are taken to a typical dictionary entry, containing different meanings, pronunciation, parts of speech, examples, and etymology.
At the top of the entry page of the dictionary, you are offered a choice of dictionary, thesaurus, quotations and English usage. When you click thesaurus, you again get a list of the word in context, and need to click the context closest to the meaning for which you need a synonym. When you click on one of those choices, you are brought to a typical thesaurus page.
This works nicely, although it is a little cumbersome, if you have an idea of the meaning of the word you want. If you have a word and you want to know what it means, you must puzzle through the initial list to try and guess what entry you want. Sometimes, if the word you are researching is used in a description of another word, when you click on the link, you find yourself at a page for an entirely different word definition.
Yahoo! offers an online dictionary based on the American Heritage Dictionary, and its interface is a little more straightforward.
The dictionary can be purchased in print through Amazon for about $30 in hardcover, or with CD for $47. The fourth edition is also available for $20. There have been some complaints on Amazon about the CD version of the dictionary. One user commented that an earlier release actually offered more options on the CD. The College version of the dictionary, with fewer entries, is available for $17 in hardcover, or $6 in paperback. The hardcover now comes with a passkey which allows the owner of the print version to download the complete text of the dictionary as well as Roget's Thesaurus.