When we look up a word in a dictionary, we want to know not just its meaning but also its function and the circumstances under which it should be used in preference to words of similar meaning. Standard dictionaries do not address such matters, treating each word in isolation. R. M. W. Dixon puts forward a new approach to lexicography that involves grouping words into ’semantic sets’, to describe what can and cannot be said, and providing explanations for this. He provides a critical survey of the evolution of English lexicography from the earliest times, showing how Samuel Johnson’s classic treatment has been amended in only minor ways. Written in an easy and accessible style, the book focuses on the rampant plagiarism between lexicographers, on ways of comparing meanings of words, and on the need to link lexicon with grammar. Dixon tells an engrossing story that puts forward a vision for the future.