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The Longman Amercan Defining Vocabulary

Words used in definitions

All the definitions in Longman dictionaries are written using the words on this list. If a definition includes a word that is not on the list, that word is shown in SMALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

The Defining Vocabulary has been carefully chosen after a thorough study of all the well-known frequency lists of English words. Furthermore, only the most common and “central” meanings of the words on the list have actually been used in definitions. We have also used a special computer program that checks every entry to make sure that words from outside the Defining Vocabulary do not appear in definitions.

Download a PDF version of the Defining Vocabulary.

Restrictions on Part of Speech

For some words on the list, a label such as n. or adj. is shown. This means that this particular word is used in definitions only in the part of speech shown. So anger, for example, is used only as a noun and not as a verb. But if no word class is shown for a word, it can be used in any of its usual parts of speech: answer, for example, is used in definitions both as a noun and as a verb.

Compound Words

Definitions occasionally include compound words formed from words in the Defining Vocabulary, but this is only done if the meaning is completely clear. For example, the word businessman (formed from business and man) is used in some definitions.

Prefixes and Suffixes

The main list is followed by a list of common prefixes and suffixes. These can be added to words on the main list to form derived words, provided the meaning is completely clear. For example,the word nervousness (formed by adding -ness to nervous) is used in some definitions.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs formed by combining words in the Defining Vocabulary (for example, put up with) are NOT used in definitions in the dictionary, except in a very small number of cases where the phrasal verb is extremely common and there is no common equivalent. So, for example, give up(as in give up smoking) and take off (as in the plane took off) are occasionally used.

Proper Nouns

The Defining Vocabulary does not include the names of actual places, nationalities, religions, and so on, which are occasionally mentioned in definitions.