Etc. The Long-Lasting Defining Device: Unravelling the Mystery

Safi Eldeen Alzi'abi


In its abbreviated form, 'etc.' is a lexicographic device that dates back to the early 15th century. It is used on a large scale in monolingual dictionaries for native speakers and EFL learners to serve a wide range of linguistic patterns. Unfortunately, there seems to be little research on the way this linguistic unit has been used, despite the fact literature abounds with details about dictionary making.

This descriptive analytical study reveals the way 'etc.' is used in EFL learner's dictionaries and brings to light some unknown evidence regarding its frequency of occurrence. The bald statistics prepared on the use of 'etc.' in the macrostructure and microstructure of a cross-section of four learner's dictionaries show that it has been widely used, but in many cases it seems dispensable. Analysis of a large body of definitions shows that 'etc.' appeared in the definitions of headwords of all word classes and sometimes more than once in many senses of polysemous lexical items in the range of one to five lexemes preceding 'etc.'

This widespread use of 'etc.' may place additional pressure on dictionary users in their desperate attempt to comprehend the definitions. Maybe it is high time that 'etc.' is considered outworn or obsolete and is replaced with something that lends itself to this age of modern technology, where space is no longer a major concern for dictionary makers.


learner's dictionaries; defining techniques; style guides; patterns of 'etc.'; 'etc.' in electronic dictionaries; definitions with 'etc.'; frequency of occurrence of 'etc.'; items before 'etc.'

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ISSN 2224-0039 (online); ISSN 1684-4904 (print)

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