How much should I trust Wiktionary?

The first thought that came to my mind after watching this question was how can this question be on topic. I was so sure about it being closed that I did not even bother to cast any close vote as this might accelerate the question's being closed without getting any answer at all. But to my surprise, I discovered instead of getting closed, it gained several up-votes. So I made my mind to break my silence and made a comment along with a close vote, to which Hippietrail suggested me to raise a discussion in meta. So here is my post.

Reasons for this question should be closed (as per my opinion)

Not Constructive- This question wants for advices regarding the trustworthiness of a particular site, Wikitionary. To my understanding this question can only give rise to speculations where some people would suggest they found it bogus, some other would find it interesting (like the OP himself) and thus leading to an endless discussion proving this question is not constructive. Wikitionary itself quotes:

Hello, and welcome! Wiktionary is a multilingual free dictionary, being written collaboratively on this website by people from around the world. Entries may be edited by anyone!

So it is nothing other than other similar wiki sites. They can be right, can be wrong, too. In fact, I would rather add there is no need to ask this question in the first place if the prologue (the one I quoted) is seen once at least. So this is purely an individuals decision whether or not he would believe Wikitionary.

Off Topic- This question is purely off topic and obviously out of scope of this site. Focus of this site should be on different issues a learner can face during learning English. Definitely, he can check the problem in Wikitionary. But if it seems to him that Wikitionary might be wrong there, he can simply ask his problem with proper context here.

Whereas this question does not point to a particular problem on Englsih Language and the community is here not to evaluate truestworthiness of a site. Hence it is out of scope of this site.

However I do think this question can be asked in chat or in meta in regards with if it is acceptable to use Wikitionary as reference in any Q/A here.

So dear users, comment or answer on this post so that this can become clear whether this sort of question here will be welcome here in future or not.

  • 1
    Can you please use gender neutral language, rather than "he" and "him"?
    – Golden Cuy
    Feb 10, 2013 at 10:23
  • 4
    @AndrewGrimm: Why? "He" and "him" as the gender-neutral pronoun is perfectly acceptable, stylistically. I use it always, as do many, many others.
    – Cerberus
    Feb 10, 2013 at 15:32
  • I would say they are acceptable. They used to be perfectly acceptable but they are no longer perfect. @AndrewGrimm: is far from being alone in this. Feb 12, 2013 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


I’ve never been comfortable with hiding discussion of reference works and other resources in Meta.

Book reviews are a vital part of scholarly literature in all disciplines; indeed, many disciplines have entire journals devoted entirely to reviews. These reviews are a primary means by which the discoveries and discussions among very narrowly focused specialists are communicated to a wider public. Even a scholar needs guidance when he ventures outside his own particular field—“Can I rely on what this work tells me, or should I be aware of important methodological or ideological bias?”

The need is even greater among lay readers. Scholars quickly learn which works are reliable and which are not, but students who consult a reference work are left to their own devices. I think we do a disservice to our audience when we confine discussions of the reliability of Wiktionary and the evidential value of NGrams to Meta, where a mainpage search will not find them. This is to make these discussions invisible to the very people who need them most.

I am not deterred by the horrid prospect of such discussion becoming contentious or subjectively opinionated. We’re all grownups here, Askers and Answerers alike; I don’t think there’s much danger of these discussions degenerating into personal squabbles. We all learn from the civil exchange of perspectives. And in any case, a subjective opinion is expressed every time a reference work is cited—and the opinion is often debated, repeatedly, in Comments.

  • ...so you are saying, yes, they should be on-topic on the main site?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Feb 11, 2013 at 17:57
  • 3
    @Kit Yes. (In fact, I think they should be on ELU, too). Meta is for questions about site operations. Mainsite is for questions about learning the language. Feb 11, 2013 at 18:10
  • A very refreshing opinion! Feb 12, 2013 at 0:35
  • One thing I would like to know would it be a pleasant feeling if from now I start coming up with questions on authenticity of several other sites (including dictionary site) in the main site? Would it be a soothing feeling to you?
    – Mistu4u
    Feb 13, 2013 at 3:47

I'm not sure I quite understand OP's position here, so I can't vote the question itself up or down according to whether I agree with it or not, as normally happens on meta. For the record, I have actually upvoted because I think it's an issue well worth raising.

I'm answering because I can't really endorse the implications of StoneyB's hiding discussion of reference works and other resources in Meta. That's what happens on ELU, and I completely agree with it there.

But here on ELL it seems to me such resources are an integral part of of what learners need if they are to become familiar with English. It's not that I feel very strongly about it, but at the moment I lean towards thinking questions about resources and methods of learning should be On Topic here.

  • On the meta sites I use most I vote the question up or down to indicate whether I think it's a good question that should be asked, never to indicate whether I agree with the asker's position. In fact I encourage askers not to include their opinion in such questions but lay out both sides and be as neutral as possible. If they also want to express their opinion they should submit an answer as well. For answers I vote them up/down based on whether I agree with them. Feb 12, 2013 at 0:38
  • @hippietrail: Well, this question currently has two up and two downvotes, plus mine which I've explained in the answer. The implication of OP's being "surprised" that the Wiktionary question wasn't closed immediately is that he assumed it would be expected and proper that it should be closed. Which is probably reflected by the two downvotes disagreeing with that position. Supported by the fact that StoneyB and myself now have a dozen upvotes, and we both think asking about Wiktionary is okay. But it's confusing because OP seems to have a possible position himself. Feb 12, 2013 at 3:49
  • I think on meta.SO it is standard practice to downvote questions to show disagreement of opinion rather than support in questioning. Ironic that the most ambiguous approach is favoured by the most technical community. So people coming here from SO will probably bring that habit. As will some people new to SE. But on travel.SE for one we seem to pretty much follow the logical way of voting. So it goes ... Feb 12, 2013 at 3:54
  • @hippietrail: Personally I'd be happy for it to work the same as ELU meta (downvote the Q if it implies a position you don't agree with). Perhaps you should raise the question here (but personally, I'd be surprised if you could get a clear majority to support your position, so you'd better be prepared for some downvotes if you "ask" :) Feb 12, 2013 at 4:38
  • ...you know what's standard practice on SO re voting on meta questions, and obviously if you post a question on ell.meta asking if people want to take a different tack here, the implication will be that you want it to be different here. People who want to retain the existing default will therefore naturally downvote you for asking to change things. Feb 12, 2013 at 4:42
  • You're assuming everybody here is from StackOverflow, likes the way it is on StackOverflow, and thinks StackOverflow should dictate how the other StackExchange sites should work, and that it isn't just some crufty artefact that simply got ingrained there way back when and is now too set to change. And I couldn't care less about people downvoting me d-; Feb 12, 2013 at 9:40
  • @hippietrail: Not really. I just happen to think the way voting currently works on ELU meta is fine. I don't like getting downvotes there, because it means people don't agree with me (as that link shows, I'm well out on a limb thinking s/b, sth are acceptable abbreviations). But, Hey! It's a "sorta" democracy here. People vote as they please. Feb 12, 2013 at 13:50
  • I haven't had very much interaction with the ELU meta, mainly just travel's and SO's. I have no idea how the various voting methodologies pan out across the whole network of metas. I'm just trying to elucidate an ambiguity and how to avoid it. Feb 12, 2013 at 15:44
  • @hippietrail: Every now and then a (usually, new) user complains about getting downvotes on ELU meta. There are always plenty of people (incl. mods) ready to comment that it's no big deal there, that that's just the way votes work on meta. I'll check - if the issue hasn't been raised yet on ELL meta, I'll ask it. So we can see what people think, and/or persuade them to change their minds. Feb 12, 2013 at 20:07
  • One thing I would like to know would it be a pleasant feeling if from now I start coming up with questions on authenticity of several other sites (including dictionary site) in the main site? Would it be a soothing feeling to you?
    – Mistu4u
    Feb 13, 2013 at 3:48
  • @Mistu4u: I can only speak for myself, but I suppose you mean you want to know if you would get a pleasant feeling. So assuming you'd feel good about seeing any more such questions get upvoted, and not so good if they get downvoted, I have to say I'll probably be one of the downvoters. If you effectively ask exactly the same question about another site, I will consider it a duplicate. Let the original be expanded to cover any specific site that needs special mention. Feb 13, 2013 at 5:29
  • So, let it be expanded.
    – Mistu4u
    Feb 13, 2013 at 5:47

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