Wikipedia is not a dictionary/Talk

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I agree in principle. I don't want to see Wikipedia cluttered with word definitions. But this has already become a gray area when you substitute "glossary" for "dictionary." Take, for example, American football/Glossary. There's a Wikipedia article for forward pass? C'mon!

I got interested in this issue in response to Larry's comment about my induhvidual page. I thought it was a phenomenon interesting enough to warrant an article, although I only wrote a stub. Larry referred me to item #3 of what Wikipedia is not.

I'm not entirely convinced about the inappropriateness of induhvidual, yet.

<>< tbc

It certainly has a place in a larger article about Scott Adams and Dilbert. I don't think the term is used or understood outside of that context enough to merit coverage on its own. --LDC

I agree with the title. It is not a dictionary, glossary, thesarus, or any other reference source. First and foremost, the Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Second, it is a place for academic debate as it relates to the content of the Wikipedia. That is it. If you want a free personal web page go to geocities or angelfire.

The Black Griffen

The core issue is the perception of Wikipedia, right? Not a matter of resources. So, how about a global Glossary page with intentionally brief subpages for those terms that don't rate a main entry but may require some explanation? That would avoid having to repeatedly enter a parenthetical explanation on every page that uses a term, and its appearance underneath Glossary would make it clear, I think, that it's not a serious entry. The extra effort to enter [[Glossary/Foo]] instead of [[Foo]] isn't too terrible a compromise. This is just off the top of my head, so I'll leave it to others to poke holes in it. --loh

Actually, that (or some variation of it) is a great idea, and I'm embarrased that I didn't think of it already. It will involve changing Wikipedians' habits and culture a bit, but I think it would be worth the effort. --LDC

It looks like I'm going to have to engage in a little more equine abuse. Wikipedia isn't a dictionary, it's an encyclopedia. Therefore, I think it's a waste of our time, qua time spent working on an encyclopedia, to work on writing a glossary, however presented. Glossary-type information is either to be found in suitable encyclopedia articles (about jargon, or in articles themselves), which is totally acceptable, or to be found at or your dictionary of choice.

Try this out for size: if you think the meaning of some word both (1) needs explanation and (2) doesn't merit more than a dictionary entry's worth of explanation, then you should probably just define the word in the article itself. On the other hand, if the term really does need some special explanation that you can refer to from several different other articles, such as cannot be found in a standard fat dictionary, then probably your term is a piece of jargon. Explaining jargon is totally acceptable in an encyclopedia. The explanation of jargon is an art, by the way. It's not just a matter of giving a dictionary-type definition. It's a matter of conveying how the word is used, in what contexts, and it almost always helps to give some background information about related topics. And, of course, much jargon does itself name important topics, about which a lot of non-semantic information is very important to include in an encyclopedia. Hence, most complete, good explanations of jargon will not look like dictionary definitions.

If the above is correct, then we still won't, in the end, have many articles that look like dictionary definitions. The briefest of definitions can be included in other articles. When they need to be referred to by many other articles, they're probably jargon, and jargon almost always can be usefully and helpfully explained with information that involves more than just the sort of basic semantic information you'd find in a dictionary.

The above-mentioned football terms are, indeed, football jargon, without which it is impossible to understand or explain the game. That's why it's OK to have that jargon. I have my doubts that induhvidual is a piece of jargon necessary to explain anything that belongs in an encyclopedia, although someone far more expert on Scott Adams and Dilbert might want to disagree with me, I guess. :-)

I hammer on this point, that we're working on an encyclopedia, for what I think is a good reason. Part of what makes Wikipedia so cool is that we are focusing on the fact that it's an encyclopedia and not, in addition, a bunch of everything2 nodes (just for example). If we let it, it would become all that, and more. But then it wouldn't be half as cool as it is. There's a reason we're here and not at h2g2, everything2, Usenet, Kuro5hin, Project Gutenburg, etc. --LMS

I understand. I decided to give the text a home at So. The FAQ explains how to delete a page, and I did delete the text. But it didn't go away altogether. The FAQ doesn't say how to do that, so I'll leave it to someone more knowledgeable. <>< tbc

Why all the debate? Compare any sensible sized dictionary to any sensible sized encyclopedia. The amount of material in the encyclopedia will swamp the material in the dictionary. When it reaches a sensible size, you could add a whole dictionary to wikipedia and noone would even notice. --drj

A good dictionary has much less information in many more entries than a good encyclopedia. This means that if you put a dictionary and an encyclopedia together, the majority of entries will come from the dictionary, but the majority of the information will come from the encyclopedia. This makes it hard to find information; most links and most search results will lead to dictionary definitions. -- Kragen
Very well stated, Kragen. --LMS

Actually, the "Wikipedia is not a dictionary" philosophy is, as of September 2001, being used as a justification to delete stub entries.

I haven't seen this happening, but that's not to say that it isn't. Any examples? -- STG
See Quimby, Quagmire, Quintuplet, Quadruplet, Quiver
The question was asked two months ago, when the comment was made. Any examples from then? --STG
I hope you can understand that it would be difficult for me to find examples now. I apologize for not doing so at the time. --TheCunctator

The fact that the Wikipedia-is-not-a-dictionary policy is sometimes used to delete article stubs, when the stub could actually be the stub of a legitimate encyclopedia article, does not make the policy wrong. It makes the policy wrongly applied.

There is absolutely nothing wrong, in my opinion, with deleting stubs that will never be anything more than dictionary definitions. But whether a stub could ever be "anything more than dictionary definition" is somewhat difficult to determine. I can easily imagine a long, informative article on arrow quivers; I cannot easily imagine anything more than a dictionary definition of "quiver" in the sense of what I do when approaching a grizzly bear. Hence, my tendency would be to leave a stub expressing the former sense, and delete a stub expressing the latter sense. See [1] for further considerations from me on this. --LMS

Heh, actually, I could see a good article on the psychological/physiological reasons and causes of trembling and quivering whilst under extreme stress. Basically, my opinion is that almost everything makes a good article. --Anders Törlind
Re the article topic you mention, sure! But then we'd want to make sure that the topic was correctly named. Do psychologists who study the stuff call it "trembling"? --LMS
Aye, correct naming is another matter entirely, but for the sake of argument, let's say that psychologists do not call it quivering. In that case the stub should certainly be moved and a redirect implemented. Deleting still seems a bit harsh IMHO. --Anders Törlind
But what if the stub has absolutely no useful information either about the word that psychologists use or about the psychological phenomenon? I.e., what if, as is sometimes the case, the definition is just a definition of the word and has value only as such? Then deleting is perfectly fine. --LMS

Cor blimey! An argument of almost infinite regress looms... :-) sjc

So, if you don't like WINAD, the name of the game is, write articles that look like they could become encyclopedia articles. If you want to counter a deletion, pick up the page and do just that. (The dictstub may help with that, I think. Fortunately one can't kill earlier versions...)
Yes! I agree 100% with the latter! --LMS