Discipline-specific and Technical Dictionaries Online

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey 

One effective way of learning vocabulary specific to any given discipline is to use technical and discipline-specific reference sources. This list is not comprehensive, and anyone with suggestions to build this directory is encouraged to email me at info@iaieus.com or post a comment, below. Experts and practitioners use reference works that are specific to their fields all the time. What better way to help ease students into the world of your discipline than to guide them to the reference works that are specific to each field?

My criteria for inclusion in this list:

  • Resource must be fully accessible online.
  • Resource must be suitable (but perhaps challenging) for students in grades 6 through 12 and undergraduate (but not excluding those who are learning about the topic).
  • There is a reasonable probability that the resource will remain online for some time to come.
  • The resource presents accurate information that represents the field.

Art:

MOMA: http://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/glossary Search by artist, by theme, or alphabetically.

Business:

Inc.com Encyclopedia: http://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/ Search many entries relevant to business and entrepreneurism.

Web Copywriting Glossary: http://www.wealthywebwriter.com/web-copywriting-glossary/ Suggested by Benedict Paul (thanks!). I have included this in the business category, but it has some very good entries on writing (as you might expect) and technology, as well. (added 8/6/2015)

Literature:

Literature Dictionary: http://www.literature-dictionary.org/ Includes dictionaries of characters, dictionaries by author, and dictionaries of terms.

Mathematics:

Illustrated mathematics dictionary: http://www.mathsisfun.com/definitions/index.html. Easy navigation, intended for grades K-12.

Mathwords: http://www.mathwords.com/ Focuses on precision and readability. The site includes graphics to bolster the definitions.

Wolfram MathWorld: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/  Perhaps one of the most comprehensive resources for mathematics definitions on the web.

Encyclopedia of Mathematics: http://www.encyclopediaofmath.org/index.php/Main_Page An open-access resource with more than 8000 entries.

Music:

Naxos.com: http://www.naxos.com/education/glossary.asp Search alphabetically.

Physical Education:

Sports Definitions: http://www.sportsdefinitions.com/ Searchable by type of sport or alphabetically.

Science:

The Science Dictionary: https://www.thesciencedictionary.com/ This is actually a search tool that aggregates search results specific to science.

Enchanted Learning: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/science/dictionary/ Links to several specialty dictionaries by Enchanted Learning for students (e.g., botany, dinosaurs, land forms).

Geology Dictionary: http://geology.com/geology-dictionary.shtml Also, check out the map collections: http://geology.com/state-map/

Social Studies:

Ancient History Encyclopedia: http://www.ancient.eu/index/ Search alphabetically, by timeline, for images, or for videos.

Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences: http://bitbucket.icaap.org/ A comprehensive dictionary, designed for undergraduates, by Athabasca University.

Catholic Online: http://www.catholic.org/ So many figures and ideas are associated with the Roman Catholic church that a reference work may be very helpful. This one is supported by ads that can be annoying.

Taegan Goddard’s Political Dictionary: http://politicaldictionary.com/

Geography Dictionary & Glossary: http://www.itseducation.asia/geography/

Compilation of Architecture Dictionaries by Robert Beard: http://www.alphadictionary.com/directory/Specialty_Dictionaries/Architecture/ (Be sure to check out http://www.alphadictionary.com/specialty.html for many more specialty dictionary links. Some are better than others, but it’s quite a collection).

Technology:

NetLingo: http://www.netlingo.com/ One of the first and best (in my opinion) dictionaries for those interested in technology and internet-related terms.

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Find more resources for literacy in the disciplines right here on Literacy Beat.

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