Cover image for Descriptionary : [a thematic dictionary]
Descriptionary : [a thematic dictionary]
McCutcheon, Marc.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Facts On File, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 560 pages ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Subtitle from cover.

Includes index.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PE1591 .M415 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Descriptionary is especially useful to readers looking for a descriptive or technical term, when they know the word but not its meaning, or when they know the subject but not the word. Updated and easy-to-use, the book features indispensable glossaries arranged by category and a new chapter that includes basic vocabulary words and expressions such as critical mass, Pandora's box, coup d'etat, and c'est la vie. Sample Entries: The Internet -- e-zine: an on-line magazine -- surf: to explore various sites on the Internet, for fun or for research purposes -- .com: at the end of an email or web address, a designation for a commercial enterprise.

Author Notes

Marc McCutcheon is a freelance writer & author of several books, including "The Facts on File Student's Thesaurus." He lives in South Portland, ME.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

A small reference book with a large scope, the third edition of the Descriptionary succeeds, with minor disappointments. Divided into 24 topical sections, ranging from Animals and Insects to Weapons, the volume aspires to provide the user with appropriate words related to certain concepts. For example, if a student wanted to know the name for the area in the church where the congregation sits, a search in the Religious Buildings subsection of Architecture would provide the probable answer nave, along with other words that describe religious buildings and their many components, such as aguilla, narthex, and triforium. The Language section now includes definitions of street slang, including names of drugs, words used in rap music and urban conversation, and underworld patois. The new edition also includes terms used in physics and chemistry, a significant oversight of the second edition, as well as a new section on Furniture. Young adults and college students will appreciate the republishing of Words and Expressions You Should Know, a section that may prove useful while writing papers or preparing for standardized tests. Most of the text from the second edition has been lifted whole cloth and used in the new one. This is pardonable, given the invariably generic definitions of most words in the English language (a rose is a rose is a rose, after all). However, the author could have made several improvements. For example, the index does not include terms used in tables or lists, such as those for animal groups, international monetary units, geological time, medical fields, constellations, and baseball. The Military section lists definitions used mostly during the cold war and with the exception of cell and IED does not have common terminology related to 9/11 or the war on terror. Computers includes definitions of BASIC, mainframe, and floppy disk but overlooks client/server system, Linux, and flash drive. The Language section defines several rhetorical terms, including litotes and metonymy, but no mention is made of periphrasis or synecdoche. One will not find comprehensiveness or uniformly detailed definitions here but will be given satisfactory answers to simple questions. The book fills an important niche in any reference collection because of its wide scope and comparatively low cost. Public libraries that cannot afford lavishly priced subject dictionaries will want to purchase a copy. Even academic libraries with extensive holdings should allow room on the ready-reference shelf for this compact tool. --Michael Matthews Copyright 2005 Booklist

Library Journal Review

McCutcheon, who also authored The Facts On File Student's Thesaurus, has revised this thematic glossary, last published in 2000, by adding new categories of words or phrases and updating definitions of existing ones. It now includes thousands of descriptions of terms organized into 24 categories. Some of the new categories include "Urban Street and Rap Slang," "Mafia/Organized Crime Terms and Slang," "British Words and Slang," "Astronomy," and "Furniture." Every category has at least one and up to 35 subcategories (e.g., "Sexuality" is a subcategory of "Human Body and Mind"). If you need to look up a word in a subject area, you can turn to the appropriate category and browse the list of words related to it. A separate section lists over 1000 "Words and Expressions You Should Know," which appear regularly in popular news magazines and speeches. This is the only section including parts of speech and pronunciations, a feature that would have been useful in the main body of the work. Bottom Line Thematic glossaries, like visual dictionaries, are interesting to browse but remain of limited reference use. Still, they nicely complement thesauruses, allowing users to brush up on the vocabulary in a given area before attending a lecture or presentation. This is an optional purchase for high school and public libraries, as well as academic writing centers.-Rosanne M. Cordell, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-Updating the 2000 edition with revisions and a number of new or expanded sections, this topical dictionary arranges an estimated 20,000 specialized terms under a classified scheme of headers. The intent is to provide quick reference for writers looking for, say, a list of select hairstyles (bangs, Beatle cut, beehive, bob); baseball jargon (lumber, minors, moon shot, mustard); or rap lingo (mack, my nizzle, off the chain, phat). Entries are arranged alphabetically beneath each rubric and given succinct definitions. As in previous editions, McCutcheon closes with a thousand or so 50-cent words, from âÇ£abdicateâÇ  to âÇ£zenith,âÇ  that he recommends to heighten the general tone of a user's discourse. Both the word choice and the indexing are arbitrary; a long list of Greek and Roman gods does not include Hestia, for instance. More problematic, however, is the lack of illustrations, as textual descriptions of clothing, body parts, architectural elements, sports gear, medical instruments, or any physical items are seldom as clear as a simple picture would be. Deeper collections, and those serving creative writing programs, will find this a helpful resource, so long as it's used in conjunction with the likes of Reg Bragonier and David Fisher's What's What: A Visual Glossary of the Physical World (Hammond, 1990; o.p. ).-John Peters, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

Self-described as "The book for when you know what it is, but not what it's called," this compilation is categorized by topic. The 22 broad chapters range from the popular and arcane ("Clothing," "Food and Drink," "Magic and the Occult"), to the academic ("Environment," "Law," "Medicine"), to areas of current public interest ("Electronics," "Finance," "Sports," "Space Flight"). The topics are subdivided for ease of searching; for example, "Religions"-"Ancient Religions"-"Greek and Roman Mythology," which would be useful when searching for the mythological term that represents the personification of death (Thanatos). The style and content of the book do not seem to have changed much since the first edition (CH, Sep'92), except for an additional chapter featuring pronunciations and definitions for "1,050 Words and Expressions You Should Know." The lengthy index is helpful only when you know what word you are searching for. Recommended for most levels of readership, general to professional, but best suited for specialized reference collections and writing labs alongside reverse dictionaries and thesauri. A. E. Bonnette; University of Louisiana at Lafayette



Descriptionary, Second Edition is especially useful to writers, students, researchers, and general readers when they're looking for a descriptive or technical term, when they know the word but not its meaning, or when they know the subject but not the word. Updated and easy to use, it provides indispensable glossaries, arranged by category, that define and describe thousands of words. New terms reflect current usage in such categories as the Internet, the environment, the performing arts and broadcasting, the human body and mind, the government, medicine, finance, politics, and sports. This edition closes with a new chapter, 1,050 Words and Expressions You Should Know, that includes basic vocabulary words and expressions such as critical mass, Pandora's box, coup d'etat, and c'est la vie. Sample Entries: The Internet • Excerpted from Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary by Marc McCutcheon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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