Dictionary.com Word FAQs
What words are counted as entries in a dictionary - the number of words that the publisher advertises on the book jacket?
You have noticed that dictionaries are marketed on their entry counts - 50,000 or 100,000 or ??? entries. This is a controversial topic because many dictionary publishers want this number to be higher than their competitors'. Sometimes these claims refer to the number of definitions, not to the number of entries or headwords defined. Technically, a dictionary entry is every word or phrase that is explicitly or implicitly defined, as long as it is clearly identifiable, usually in boldface type. Each boldfaced version of a headword is counted, such as the homonyms of a noun or entry words that are in multiple parts of speech (e.g., a word is that is a noun and a verb is counted twice). Publishers maximize the number of entries they can claim are in a book by then counting: 1) inflections that are actually shown (the endings of verbs, the plurals of nouns, the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives); 2) run-on derivatives (whole or sometimes partial, shown typically at the end of entries); 3) idioms or other defined expressions run on to a dictionary entry; and 4) words in lists following an entry for a common prefix, such as pre-. It has been said that in most American collegiate-sized dictionaries, less than half of the total number of entries claimed are actual headwords.