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Difference Between Dictionary and Hash table

Dictionary vs Hash table

Dictionaries are alphabetical sources of words from one language offering definitions, pronunciations and spellings.  Some dictionaries are more in-depth than others, offering other information for those words.  Hash tables are indexes of values, where a key is translated into another value to represent it.  Both may be methods of storing and retrieving information, however there are differences which may make each one better, based on the needs of the individual seeking that information.

The first dictionaries were established around the year 2300 BC, from Syria.  Since then, most languages have formed their own versions of dictionaries, each one based around words used in their language.  Today, the most common English dictionary in use is Webster’s English Dictionary, one of the most widely published books.  Hash tables are of use especially to the computer science world, where numerical values are often easier to enter into databases.  A key is used as a function in order to provide an index for any given set of data.  While hash tables are a more recent invention they are widely used today in programming languages.

Dictionaries are beneficial because they offer a variety of information once a word is found.  There are glossaries, pronunciation assistance, and multiple definitions for the same word (in select cases).  From a young age, the dictionary is taught to be the primary source for extracting language information, hash tables are typically only taught in specialized courses. Since the dictionary is often seen as the easier way to find information, hash tables are typically only used in the field of computer technology.  Some believe that because dictionaries are alphabetized and available in both book form and over the Internet that hash tables are not utilized nearly as much.  However, one of the main benefits to using hash tables is quicker availability of the desired information.  It is important that in order to translate a hash table that a key is maintained, otherwise there may be no way of understanding the data within it.  Creators of a good hash table must create good functions in order to prevent repeating functions for various keys, there are many techniques used to assist in preventing what is called collisions.

Dictionaries and hash tables are various ways of communicating a particular language.  Both are used in different ways and are suitable for different purposes.


  1. Dictionaries are alphabetical sources of definitions for words of any given language.  A hash table is a value index created, when words are given a certain value to represent that word.
  2. The most common dictionary in use is Webster’s English Dictionary.  Hash tables are specific to computer related technology, used as programming languages.
  3. Dictionaries are easier for most people to use.  Hash tables are considered a quicker method of retaining a set of retrievable data for computer technology purposes.
  4. Dictionary use is typically taught to school children as a primary method for language information.  Hash table usage is usually only taught in specialized computer courses.

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