What is the difference between a Lexicon, a Dictionary, and a Glossary?
Thread poster: kakuku

Dec 31, 2002

My question concerns both the linguistic aspect (are these tokens for determinate kinds of

word-lists) and the current practice in compiling word-lists. Is there a published normative standard?

Thanks and Regards,

kakuku duxis

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Nico van de Water  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:22
English to Dutch
+ ...
Lexicon, dictionary, glossary... Dec 31, 2002

Hi Kakuku,

Good question, and my understanding is as follows:

A lexicon is list of all the words (and/or word combinations) appearing in a text or corpus of texts.

A dictionary is, well... a dictionary.

A glossary is one of two things:

- a list of specialist terms with their definitions or explanations at the end of a text or manual;

- a list of terms with their translations in one or more target languages.

If anyone feels different about my understanding, please enlighten me. Especially the terms \"lexicon\" and \"glossary\" are often used indiscriminately.

Hope this contribution helps.

With best wishes to you all for 2003,


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Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
French to English
See below Dec 31, 2002

The three are very distinct. I have always understood lexicon to mean terms used in a given subject and glossary to mean definitions of terms used in a document.

Collins says:


The lexicon of a particular subject is all the terms associated with it.

A lexicon is an alphabetical list of the words in a language or the words associated with a particular subject.


A glossary of special, unusual, or technical words or expressions is an alphabetical list of them giving their meanings, for example at the end of a book on a particular subject.


A dictionary is a book in which the words and phrases of a language are listed alphabetically, together with their meanings or their translations in another language.


Karin Adamczyk

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Rob Albon  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:22
Japanese to English
+ ...
Lexicon-dictionary-glossary Jan 1, 2003

A lexicon and a dictionary are both lists of words arranged alphabetically with definitions. In addition to definitions, a dictionary also provides explanation of how to use the word, specifically, it usually provides examples. So, a lexicon is a word list and a dicitionary is a word list with explanations on usage and probably examples. The good part of a lexicon is that it is a lot smaller than a dictionary.

A gloss is an equivalent word written next to the original to tell the reader what the

original word means or how to pronounce it. For example, a Latin word in an English text might have a vernacular gloss written next to it to tell the reader what it means in the vernacular; a Chinese character in a Japanese text might have the pronunciation written next to it. A glossary is nothing more than a collection of these reading aids that one would refer to while reading a difficult text. Obviously, a text that one reads probably does not require notes on usage such as one typically finds in a dicitonary, so a glossary would be a lexicon of limited scope.

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