One finding of user studies is that information on meaning tends to be what dictionary users want most from their dictionaries. This is consistent with the traditional image of the dictionary as a repository of meanings of words, and this is also borne out in definitions of the item DICTIONARY itself as given in dictionaries. While this popular view has not changed much, the growing role of electronic dictionaries can change the lexicographers' approach to meaning representation. Traditionally, paper dictionaries have explained words with words, using either a definition or an equivalent, and occasionally a line-drawn picture. However, a prominent feature of the electronic medium is its multimodality, and this offers potential for the description of meaning. While it is much easier to include pictorial content, electronic dictionaries can also hold media objects which paper cannot carry, such as audio, animation or video. Publishers are drawn by the attraction of these new options, but are they always functionally useful for the dictionary users? In this article, the existing evidence is examined, and informed guesses are offered where evidence is not yet available.
Keywords: Electronic Dictionary, Meaning, Illustration, Animation, Audio, Sound Effects, Video, Multimodality, Specialized Lexicography, Learner's Dictionary