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Chambers English Dictionary

The Chambers Dictionary is frequently recommended for British cryptic crosswords and is the official reference for Scrabble® in the UK. Its idiosyncratic style and comprehensiveness have endeared it to generations of word puzzle enthusiasts.

The Edinburgh-based publishing firm of W. and R. Chambers was founded in 1832 and soon became known for its reference works. Chambers's English Dictionary was first published in 1872. The first of several name changes occurred in 1901 when the dictionary was renamed Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary. Subsequently the name changed to Chambers English Dictionary (1988) and finally The Chambers Dictionary (1993).

Chambers is now published by Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd and is the most comprehensive single-volume English dictionary: over 200,000 words, phrases and abbreviations are defined. It covers words and meanings from all over the English-speaking world and is continually updated as the language evolves.

The Scottish roots of the dictionary are evident in the inclusion of many Scots dialect words such as tattie-bogle (a scarecrow), clishmaclaver (gossip) and gilravage (riotous merrymaking). The pronunciations given for some words are based on the Scots accent rather than Received Pronunciation.

Obsolete words and spelling variants, especially those from literature, have long been a feature of Chambers. These often come to the aid of crossword compilers struggling to fill a grid. Examples are halfe-horsy (Centaur-like, Spenser), rudesby (an uncivil fellow, Shakespeare), trot-cozy (a riding-hood, Scott), townskip (a city urchin, Dickens).

Chambers also has an excellent coverage of scientific and technical terms and many of the new words in the language come from these areas. Chambers 2008 (the 11th Edition) includes over 1000 new words and meanings and is available now.

Chambersisms

The Chambers editors have upheld the tradition of Dr Johnson by planting the occasional humorous definition. Some of the more entertaining ones are:

abloom in a blooming state
bafflegab the professional logorrhoea of many politicians, officials and salespeople, characterized by prolix abstract circumlocution and/or a profusion of abstruse technical terminology, used as a means of persuasion, pacification or obfuscation
éclair a cake, long in shape but short in duration
Japanese cedar a very tall Japanese conifer (Cryptomeria japonica) often dwarfed by Japanese gardeners
jaywalker a careless pedestrian whom motorists are expected to avoid running down
middle-aged between youth and old age, variously reckoned to suit the reckoner
mullet³ a hairstyle that is short at the front, long at the back, and ridiculous all round
pock-pudding a Scottish contemptuous name for a mere Englishman
Xylophaga a genus of boring bivalves

Some other amusing definitions and etymologies can be found under: bachelor's wife, bikini, boy band, brains trust, buckwheat, channel-surf, charity begins at home, combover, double-locked, fan dance, fish¹, flag-day, go-faster stripes, grammaticaster, he-man, Jacquard-loom, lady-killer, leprechaun, lint, man-eater, massage someone's ego, misrepresent, nineteen to the dozen, not to mention, nouvelle, old girl, overbridge, Oxford English, pantagamy, peat-reek, perpetrate, petting party, Pict, repent², restoration, road hog, Runyonesque, Santa Claus, sea serpent, shiver my timbers, spatangoid, squillion, table-turning, taghairm, talk against time, throw the handkerchief, tracksuit, tweenager, waistline.

Record Breakers

Here are some of the extremes to be found in Chambers:

Longest word (45 letters)

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis a form of pneumoconiosis caused by very fine silicate or quartz dust

Longest isogram (15 letters)

dermatoglyphics the science of the study of skin patterns

Longest palindromes (9 letters)

Rotavator® a motor-powered, hand-operated soil-tilling machine
Malayalam the Dravidian language of Kerala in SW India

Most consecutive letters (4)

hoo-oo an interjection expressing boisterous emotion

Most homographs (8)

kip a nap; the skin of a young animal; a short flat stick; the unit of currency in Laos; a level or slight incline at the end of an underground passage; a pointed hill; to play truant; a unit of weight
pink a light red colour; to stab; a chaffinch; a small sailing ship; a yellow lake pigment; to wink; anything small; a minnow
port a harbour; left; an opening in the side of a ship; a fortified wine; demeanour; a borough; a bagpipe composition; a suitcase
rack a framework; destruction; to draw off from the lees; a cut of meat; a horse's gait; driving mist; an ardent spirit; a young rabbit's skin

Most mutual anagrams (9)

aster a plant
earst formerly
reast to become rancid
resat sat an examination again
stare a fixed look
stear to guide
strae dried stalks of corn
Taser a small gunlike device
teras a monstrosity

Most irregular plurals

erg (pl areg) a Saharan area of shifting sand dunes
eyrir (pl aurar) an Icelandic monetary unit
falaj (pl aflaj) a water channel
inkosi (pl amakosi) a traditional leader of a Zulu clan
lilangeni (pl emalangeni) the standard monetary unit of Swaziland
loti (pl maloti) the standard monetary unit of Lesotho
sente (pl lisente) a monetary unit in Lesotho

Last word alphabetically

zythum a kind of beer made by the ancient Egyptians, highly commended by Diodorus Siculus

Word Squares

The largest word squares using only vocabulary in Chambers are of eight letter words. Around 70 of these have been found with Sympathy, all having the same words reading across and down ("single" word squares). In this example, the words are all emboldened entries:

Chambers Single Eight-Square

cercaria the final larval stage of many trematode worms
emergent suddenly appearing
reverist a daydreamer
crepance a wound on a horse's hind ankle-joint, caused by the shoe of the other hind-foot
agraphon a traditional utterance ascribed to Jesus, not in the canonical Gospels
rein-hand normally a coachman's left hand
insconce to settle comfortably
attender a person who pays attention

The largest double word squares found using only vocabulary in Chambers are of seven letter words. If inflected forms of entries are allowed, there are many of these. In this example, the two words with asterisks are regular plurals of emboldened entries:

Chambers Double Seven-Square

sea lace a brown seaweed, Chorda filum
ampulla a small two-handled ancient Roman flask
rippler someone who removes seeds from flax or hemp
acaudal tailless
pallone an Italian game in which a ball is struck with a gauntlet or armguard
intines* inner membranes of a pollen grain or spore
stoners* people who stone
Sarapis a god of the Greeks of Egypt, identified with Apis and Osiris
emicant sparkling
appalto a contract or monopoly
lupulin a yellow powder used as a sedative
all done used up
cleaner a person or thing that cleans
earless without ears