Webster's New World Dictionary

Published by Simon and Schuster

Because of my emphasis on the English Bible and its language, I lean more on English dictionaries than many students of the Bible. While others are jumping into the Hebrew and Greek lexicons and dictionaries before they really know what the English says, I am carefully examining the English. I have found this to be a practical and reliable approach.

For this reason, I have and use several English dictionaries and I usually know which one to use for each aspect of research. However, the one I most often pull off the shelf for a quick check is the one I am presently reviewing— Webster’s New World Dictionary . Now don’t jump ship because it uses the phrase “New World” as in “New World Order.” This part of the title comes from its emphasis on American English and the fact that one of the old titles for America was the New World.

Now let me say, this is not strictly a Bible tool. It certainly was not written by Bible believing people. Some definitions are flat wrong. The final authority for what a Bible word means is how that word is used in the Bible. That truth must always be kept in mind. Use all human tools for study with discernment.

But all things considered, I believe this dictionary to be one of the most basic and important tools for study that any student can have. It is the right size for quick reference (not too large). It is fairly inexpensive. It is durable (I have used mine for many years). It will usually point you in the right direction. If you do not have such a dictionary, you need to get one. Then, the next time you have trouble with a word in the Bible, look it up in the dictionary first. You might be surprised by the help it gives.

I have come to depend on this dictionary for several reasons. Here are some of them:

  • It is a collegiate or college level dictionary. This means that is covers a larger number of words in a deeper way than cheaper dictionaries. For a modern dictionary to be used for Bible study, you need a college edition.
  • Its etymologies are very helpful. An etymology is a brief history of the word and how it came into the English language. It is found in brackets within the dictionary definition. An etymology can often create an important word picture. For instance, the word compassion comes from two words meaning together plus to suffer. It means to suffer with someone. Some of this dictionary’s competitors are really cutting back on etymologies.
  • Its definitions are roughly given in their chronological usage. That is, the older meanings of the word are usually given first and followed by later uses of the word. For this reason, the Bible meaning of the word is often described by the first meaning. For instance, the first meaning of prevent is “1. formerly, a) to act in anticipation of (an event of a fixed time) b) to anticipate (a desire, need, objection, etc.)” A simple study of the usage of this word in the King James Bible will show that this clearly defines the word as used there. Unfortunately, more and more modern dictionaries are placing the most common definitions first. This destroys the historical order that used to be standard practice.
  • The New World Dictionary has very helpful synonym comparisons located with the definitions. Synonyms are words that are very similar in meaning. The synonym comparisons show the slight differences between the words. These can be very valuable in understanding a word.
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 25:11

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.