Are there any tips/tricks for easily differentiating between Compendium, Encyclopaedia, and Almanac?

To give you an idea—the question goes like this: Which reference would you use to find the following information?

Some examples (and my guessed answers):

When Queen Elizabeth II was born.
(My Guess: Almanac, as in calendar)

How long the US Civil War lasted.
(My Guess: Encyclopaedia)

How long a kangaroo lives.
(My Guess: Encyclopaedia)

Who won the Football World Cup last time.
(My Guess: Compendium, as in collection of statistics)

Who invented the zero.
(My Guess: Encyclopaedia)

Who discovered Radium.
(My Guess: Encyclopaedia)

It's very confusing as to which reference each piece of information (above) falls into. For example, it's easy to presume that the information about "Who invented the zero" could be present in an encyclopaedia or a compendium on the discovery of numbers.

So, is there a good way to differentiate between the three?

PS: I am not after a real-world answer, which these days would pretty much always be Wikipedia, an encyclopaedia. :)

  • Question was originally posted on ell.SE but cross-posted here because I am after a more in-depth/authoritative answer.
    – its_me
    Mar 7, 2014 at 20:22
  • If you don't care about the real-world answer, why should we bother?
    – Oldcat
    Mar 7, 2014 at 23:31
  • 1
    @Oldcat I meant that I am looking for a book-ish answer. The real-world answer for this question would be too short-signted, i.e. an encyclopaedia (or Wikipedia). I don't understand why you took offense from that statement in the question.
    – its_me
    Mar 8, 2014 at 2:31

1 Answer 1


Essentially, a compendium and an encylopaedia are the same. The difference is that a compendium tends to be topic-related, whereas an encylopaedia covers a broad range of topics. An almanac is a publication giving events such as tide-times, farmer's planting schedules, astronomical data, sunrise times and so forth.

You would not look in an almanac for the birthday of Queen Elizabeth- this may be marked in a standard diary/calendar but this is a different kind of publication from an almanac.

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