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Writing about art - and business: Dictionaries and other reference works

Resources and techniques for improving your writing and study skills

 


Source: dawolf- on Flickr (edited). Licence.

 

Reference sources for the vocabulary of art

Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms
Running a search also retrieves results from other Oxford reference works. Also from Oxford, Grove Art Online contains introductory articles which are useful if you need more than simple definitions.

 

Art & Architecture Thesaurus
From the Getty Institute. This is more technical and detailed than the Oxford reference works listed above. It is likely to be most useful for detailed object-based studies of, for instance, different media.

 

Union List of Artist Names
Compiled by the Getty Institute, this lists the variant names historic artists were known by.  As many personal names were spelled inconsistently or differently in the past, this is an invaluable resource if you want to search the older literature throughly.. If you would like to access older literature, it's worth trying all the main variants. For Spanish artists, the same information has been collated by the Frick Institute.  This is rarely an issue for artists from the twentieth century onwards, with a few exceptions: Piet Mondrian began life as Piet Mondriaan.

 

Art dictionaries in the library
General dictionaries of art terms are kept at ART1.DIC.  More specialised art dictionaries are kept in their respective sections: e.g. dictionaries of decorative arts and design at DEC1.DIC.

 

Sources for inclusive vocabulary

See the first section of this guide.

 

Business and charity/nonprofit dictionaries

Concise Dictionary of Business Management. Uses British English.

Dictionary of Business. Includes both British and American terms.

Dictionary of Nonprofit Terms and Concepts. Uses American English.

 

Bilingual business dictionaries

Dictionary of Economics and Business. Spanish-English. Uses American English.

French Business Dictionary : The Business Terms of France and Canada. Uses American English. Distinguishes between usage in France and Canada.

Japanese Business Dictionary. Uses American English.

Korean Business Dictionary: American and Korean Business Terms for the Internet Age

Pocket German Business Dictionary. Uses British English.

Portuguese Business Dictionary. Uses American English. Distinguishes between usage in Portugal and Brazil.

 

Legal dictionaries

International: Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law

UK and EU: Lexology guide to key terms in art law

US: Hopkins' Nonprofit Law Dictionary and Nolo's free dictionary of legal terms and legal definitions and Wex legal dictionary and encylopedia

 

Bilingual dictionaries in the library

These are reference-only (not for borrowing) and are kept on the library's ground floor.

Oxford Beginner's Japanese Dictionary

Oxford Chinese Dictionary

Oxford Russian Dictionary

 

Geographic names

Thesaurus of Geographic Names
Useful if you want to check the different names a place has been known by, in a variety of languages. From the Getty.

 

Oxford English Dictionary

This is the ultimate dictionary of the history of the English language.  It is useful if you need to know the range of meanings a word possessed at a particular point in history.  It is available at major libraries such as the British Library. Join your local public library and you will often be given online access at home.