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Argumentum ad dictionarium

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This attack cites the dictionary definition of something, sometimes in a specific dictionary, and attempts to make the claim that the only possible or proper use of the word/term/phrase is that dictionary definition.

One of the reasons why this attack is a logical fallacy is that dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. Because they describe language as it is, and do not obligate individuals to use language in a way that conforms to dictionary definitions, they inevitably lag behind consensus on the usage of many words.

Another reason is that dictionaries tend to list denotative meanings for words. All words also have connotative meanings: that is, things commonly associated with them. Connotative meanings change far more rapidly than even online dictionaries can follow.

Examples: Edit

  • to inform a woman that she is using the term wrong and she should shut up
  • to claim that the term an attacker used was actually not as bad as the woman claimed it was, see, this is the dictionary definition!

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