The WDTPRS series intends to help you enter more fully and love more deeply the prayers Holy Church has given us. As a result I must constantly attempt the tight-wire of writing too much and too little, of including huge swaths of details to limiting the discussion to a general reader’s needs.
Still, even the general reader might want a glimpse into what makes this articles in the paper and blog entires here "tick" as it were.
This brings me to offer a note about the dictionaries I consult for this WDTPRS series. No, friends, your little "Collins" doesn’t cut it here!
For Latin I use mostly the mighty Lewis & Short, whcih in its fuller title is A Latin Dictionary Founded on Andrews’ edition of Freund’s Latin dictionary revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1879. On the spine you will see A LATIN DICTIONARY and under that LEWIS & SHORT. My experience is that, in the main, if you have a good grasp of Latin the one volume L&S will give you virtually everything you need.
More and more I am consulting Albert Blaise, Le vocabulaire latin des principaux themes liturgique, revised by Antoine Dumas, O.S.B., published by Brepols. This is a very useful volume.
For Greek I used whatever edition of Oxford’s Liddell & Scott is nearby. Often that will be the medium of the three sizes of lexica we lovingly call "Middle Liddell". For Patristic Greek I use the dictionary by Lampe.
If you want a dictionary of Classical Latin, the 40,000 word entry Oxford Latin Dictionary (P.G. Glare, ed., 1968) will do nicely. It has very large format, is quite expensive and is limited to classical texts. It only extend to the end of the 2nd century A.D., about 180 A.D.
You can also really get into words using Forcellini’s Totius Latinitatis Lexicon (1858-1887). It is in 10 volumes and fairly rare. Try also the
many volume Thesaurus linguae latinae or TLL begun in 1900. It is still in the works. It is huge and not easy to find. Also, as Souter remarks in his preface to his own Glossary, Forcellini tended to ignore non-Italianate authors. Thus, its title is a little misleading. Since the compilers of great dictionaries such as the Lewis & Short based a lot of their work on Forcellini, they suffer from some of the same drawbacks.
There are some Latin etymological dictionaries. Useful (and hard to get and expensive) are A. Blaise, Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs du moyen-âge. Lexicon latinitatis medii aevi, praesertim ad res ecclesiasticas investgandas pertinens (1975) and C. du Fresne, seigneur Du Cange, Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis. This is a 10 volume 5th edition, from 1883-1887. On the other hand L&S includes very useful etymological information, so Blaise and Du Cange might be overkill. Also, DuCange is outdated. Its entries in 17th c. Latin are not always the best. New tools of Latin etymology are coming. I have Meillet & Ernout’s Dictionnaire ÃƒÂ©tymologique de la langue latine which now has a paperback (4th) edition by Klincksieck. It is spendy but good.
For a cursory look at a word, there is Leo F. Stelton’s little Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995). Stelton’s preface says that “this book is not intended to be a research dictionary”. Rather, it is a “practical manual for seminary students once they have completed introductory courses in the Latin language” and that it might be useful also for laypeople. So, Stelton’s DEL is helpful for a beginning student for a quick consultation. As such its entries do not include citations showing the word in contexts. That is very unhelpful but it keeps the size of the volume down too.
This leads me back to Alexander Souter’s fun and useful A Glossary of Later Latin to 600 A.D. published by Oxford, Clarendon Press in 1949 and reprinted in 1997. Souter worked on the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. Again, reading a preface of any dictionary is important and Souter’s renders up some gems. Here is an example from his 1947 comments:
"When plans were being made for a new Oxford Latin Dictionary, it was decided not to include in the main work writers who flourished later than about A.D. 180. Thus Christian authors were excluded. But it was thought advisable to supplement the work by a separate brief glossary of the new forms, meanings, and phrases which appear for the first time after that date, so that students might have some help in reading authors like Ausionius, Claudian, and Ammian, or the City of God and Confessions of St. Augustine, or the Letters of St. Jerome."
He includes some interesting note about how he worked.
"The present work was in effect begun about half a century ago when, in imitation of my dear master Mayor, I began to add words and examples to a copy of Lewis and Short. The margins of the first copy became after about five years so crowded that I had to purchase a second, which in its turn has become just as full. Into a third, interleaved, I copied a number of classical examples from Professor Mayor’s annotated copies."
Souter has a great sense of humor too, which no doubt results in much knee slapping at lexicographer parties.
"The preparation of a lexicon of this kind, though tedious, is without its consolations. Lexicographers can claim to know some of the joys and excitements of all explorers. We, too, have often to hack our way through tangled growths. These tangled growths are sometimes tralaticious blunders which have passed undetected, or at least unremoved, through a series of dictionaries."
HAR HAR. "tralaticious"! HAR HAR
And I really like this footnote on p. vi:
"Is there anything more astounding in the history of language than that Geman Pferd should come from paraveredus?"
Yes, friends, this is an exciting world, Latin lexicography. Perhaps the only thing more interesting than reading about Latin dictionaries is using them. So get right out there. You can also click some links in this blog to buy them with ease.
Anyway, this has been a glimpse into my WDTPRS world. Dash out there are find some of these great tools, each of which is also a jewel.
I don’t think there are many reasons to consult some of the dictionaries of newer Latin, which have all sorts of neologisms, unless you want to make up your own Latin prayers. I once had to use a prayer from the older Roman Ritual to bless the equipment that went into an old priest’s knee replacement. Not having many of the words for that stuff in Latin firmly in my mind, I adapted the prayer for the blessing of mountain climbing equipment. More Latin humor! At any rate, you can find some volumes by the inestimable Antonio Card. Bacci and by the inimitable Carolus Egger for new words.