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Does anyone have a good map of which online dictionary will most likely apply to a given English speaking community?

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Good question. I hope someone has a good answer. +1 –  Robusto Nov 30 '10 at 19:21
    
The question of which dictionary applies to a community (the question in the body) is different from which dictionary people turn to (the question in your title). Which one are you actually interested in? If it's the latter, then something like Google Trends (or book sales) seems the only way towards an answer, while if it's the former, there may be more authoritative answers. –  ShreevatsaR Dec 11 '10 at 12:20
    
I'm surprised nobody's brought up Canada. –  Neil Fein Dec 15 '10 at 7:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted
+50

I'd say the Oxford English Dictionary is the definitive British English dictionary. Merriam Webster's might be the definitive American English dictionary.

Using Gomez's technique, it seems that the Macquarie Dictionary is the one preferred in Australia.

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+1. Useful synthesis based upon ShreevatsaR's and my own proposed method. Thanks for doing that! –  MrGomez Dec 12 '10 at 23:10
    
I would disagree. If you search for an online dictionary in the US, the Oxford English Dictionary that comes up is American. For online usage, the Cambridge Dictionary is the definitive British English dictionary. Oxford is now universal and regional. –  Jimi Oke Dec 13 '10 at 0:04
    
@Jimi Oke: Even if there is a regionalized OED for American English, Gomez's method shows that Merriam Webster's is much more popular. Similarly, the OED is slightly more popular in the UK than the Cambridge Dictionary. –  Eric Dec 13 '10 at 10:16

Hopefully

The languages vary tremendously in both spelling and meaning, in some areas (such as cookery and food) more than others. The language is relatively common and certainly in the modern age with the perfusion of international television, we understand many of the differences orally due to exposure. This does not mean we see the spellings everyday, or have a firm grasp of the usage differences, particularly when obscure.

Using a dictionary tailored for another region than your own is unwise at best. The languages are not the same, though are mutually corruptive.

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Here's a pseudo-scientific, fascinating look at dictionary use by region using Google Trends. For clarity, each phrase was crafted to return a dictionary as the first hit in (American, Western Washington) Google.

(A second graph, featuring different dictionaries)

Especially interesting are the usage statistics for the Philippines and India, though the former seems heavily skewed by Tagalog search results.

As a bonus, adding the term "Google dictionary" has some interesting results. And if we add Dictionary.com, suddenly things become amazingly skewed.

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