English Language and Literature: Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
Encyclopedias may have an important role in the early stages of your research. They provide a general overview of a subject, and aim to present objective data (names, dates, and facts that can be independently verified). They may help you to identify areas of controversy or special interest from which you can pursue further research and interpretive criticism.
Dictionaries are useful for more than just looking up definitions. A historical dictionary like the Oxford English Dictionary includes full etymologies, and dated quotations to show shifting meanings over time.
Specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias provide information on specific dialects, disciplines, or historical periods.
The Oxford English
REF PE1625.O87 1989t
- The OED, as it is known, is the most comprehensive and authoritative dictionary of the English language. As a citations dictionary, it quotes sentences used by authors to illustrate the history of usage beginning with the earliest known usage of each word.
The Oxford Dictionary of English
- A scholarly, comprehensive dictionary on the history and origin of English words.
Oxford Reference Online
- For dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, literary terms, and companions to literature. ORO contains the full text of more than 100 dictionary, language and subject reference books. Some of the resources most useful to literary study include The Concise Oxford Dictionary, The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, The Dictionary of Art, The Oxford Companion to British Literature, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, The Oxford Companion to American Literature, and companions to numerous other literatures.
Guide to Canadian English
- A guide to Canadian vocabulary, expressions, and usage, compiled by Queen's University's Strathey Language Unit.
- A scholarly resource for original research into the entire lexical content of Early Modern English.
The Middle English
- A comprehensive guide to the English language from 1100-1500, including exhaustive citations. Available online through the Middle English Compendium.
The Dictionary of the Scots
- Includes both The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and The Scottish National Dictionary (10 volumes shelved in Reference at PE2106.S4)
A Dictionary of Slang and
REF PE3721.P3 1984t
- Standard source for definitions of English slang words and phrases covering both contemporary and historical usage.
The Bedford Glossary of Critical and
Literary Terms. 2nd ed.
REF PN44.5 .M86 2003
Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary
Online (based on 2004 print edition)
REF PN41.C67 2001
Abrams, M. H. Glossary of Literary
REF PN41.A184 2005
Lanham, Richard. A Handlist of
REF PE1445.A2 L3 1991
Cuddon, J.E., & C.E. Preston. Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary
REF PN41.C83 1998
Fowler, Roger. Dictionary of Modern
REF PN41.D4794 1987t
A selection of specialized dictionaries/encyclopedias is listed below.
To find others, search QCAT using keywords of your topic combined with "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries."
Also see Appendix A to the MLA Handbook, which lists "Selected Reference Works by Field," e.g. Art, Education, History, Language and Literature and Religion.
Oxford Reference Online
- For dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, literary terms, and companions to literature. ORO contains the full text of more than 100 dictionary, language and subject reference books. Some of the resources most useful to literary study include The Concise Oxford Dictionary, The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, The Dictionary of Art, The Oxford Companion to British Literature, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, The Oxford Companion to American Literature.
Cambridge Guide to Literature in
REF PR85.C29 1993
The Concise Oxford Companion to
Online (2003, 2nd edition)
REF PR19.D732 1996t
Oxford Companion to English
REF PR19.O94 2000
Handbook to Literature
REF PN41.H355 2006
The Feminist Companion to Literature
in English : Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the
REF PN471.F45 1990t
The Columbia Dictionary of Modern
Literary and Cultural Criticism
REF PN81.C656 1995t
- Offers a clear and succinct explanation of terms, groups, and schools of thought.
Online (most recent)
REF AE5.E363 Lederman Law Library (15th ed., 2003)
REF AE5.E363 Stauffer Library (15th ed., 1997)
- A general encyclopedia, so don't expect extensive coverage or entries on more obscure authors. However, it does provide good overview information on major authors, and articles may give information on where to find the more influential criticism.
- This 11th edition is still useful to humanities students for topics concerning the nineteenth century or in which nineteenth-century scholarship was strong.
The following is a very selective list of examples of the library's numerous resources for specialized literature.
The Alexander Pope
REF PR3632.R64 2004
A Jane Austen Encyclopedia
REF PR4036.A28 1998
Mary Shelley Encyclopedia
Shakespeare: an Oxford
REF PR2976.S333 2003
Virginia Woolf A to Z
REF PR6045.O72Z729 1995
The Cambridge Dictionary of
REF B41.C35 1999
The Encyclopedia of
REF B41.E5 1972
The Oxford Companion to
REF B51.O94 1995
The Gods of the Greeks
Dictionary of Classical
REF BL715.G713 1987
Mythology & Folklore
Oxford Classical Dictionary
REF DE5.O9 1970
The Oxford Companion to British
REF DA34.O93 2002
Dictionary of Ancient
REF DE5.D53 1994t
Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century World
REF D286.D53 1994t
Dictionary of Modern History,
REF D205.P34 1962 (Lederman Law Library)
A Dictionary of British History,
Penguin Dictionary of Twentieth
Dictionary of Twentieth-Century
REF D419.T44 1992
The Timetables of History: a
Horizontal Linkage of People and Events
REF D11.G78 1982
Last Updated: 13 August 2009