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Film Studies Research Guide: Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

A guide to conducting research in Film Studies at Yale University, including key resources and crucial search strategies.

Film Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

What's Here

One generally thinks of dictionaries as books defining language, and encyclopedias as books providing short explanations, histories and biographies. But when a subject is more specialized, for all practical purposes they become indistinguishable. A book described as a dictionary may have more extensive biographies and plot summaries than a book described as an encyclopedia. They all provide quick sources of information and explanations.


On this page you will find examples of both general and specialized film dictionaries and encyclopedias, and how to locate them:

See also the information at Biographies, Credits and Plots and Guides & Companions.


Examples of Subject Headings for Searching Orbis


Selected Film Dictionaries and Encyclopedias


Cinema studies: the key concepts. Susan Hayward. New York: Routledge, 2013.

SML Stacks, PN1993.45 .H36X 2013

Critical dictionary of film and television theory. Edited by Roberta E. Pearson and Philip Simpson. London; New York: Routledge, 2001.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 C75 2001


A glossary of film terminology for Latin American and Spanish cinema

Dictionary of film terms: the aesthetic companion to film art. Frank Eugene Beaver. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 .B33X 2006

Encyclopedia of British film. Ed. Brian McFarlane. London: Methuen, 2005

SML Reference, PN1993.5.G7 M43 2005

Encyclopedia of early cinema. Ed. Richard Abel. London; New York: Routledge, 2005.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 .E53X 2005

Encyclopedia of ethnic groups in Hollywood. James Robert Parish. Facts on File, Inc.: New York, NY, 2003.

SML Reference, PN1995.9 M56 E63 2003

Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Paul Willemen. London: British Film Institute; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999.

SML Reference, PN1993.5 I8 +R277X 1999

The film encyclopedia. Ephraim Katz. New York: Collins, 2008.

SML Reference, PN 1993.45 K34 2008

One of the most frequently used single-volume film encyclopedias.  Although brief biographies predominate, there are also entries on film terminology, filmmaking in various countries, etc.

The film studies dictionary. Steve Blandford, Barry Keith Grant, Jim Hillier. London: New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 B53 2001

Filmmaker's dictionary. Ralph S. Singleton and James A. Conrad. Hollywood, CA: Lone Eagle Pub. Co., 2000.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 S56 2000

Historical dictionary of French cinema. Dayna Oscherwitz and MaryEllen Higgins. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2007.

SML Reference, PN1993.5.F7 O83X 2007

Hutchinson pocket dictionary of cinema. Oxford: Helicon Publishing, 2005


The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. Ed. Nicholas Thomas. 4th ed. Chicago: St. James, 2000.

SML Reference, PN1994 +I58 2000

Contents: v. 1, Films; v. 2, Directors; v. 3, Actors and Actresses; v. 4, Writers and Production Artists. Includes films and personalities from all periods, places and times. Concise detailed essays that include substantial bibliographies and filmographies.

New York Times Encyclopedia of Film. New York: Times Books, 1984.
SML Reference, PN1993 + N465 1984

13 volume encyclopedia contains reprints of every film article published in the New York Times through 1983.

Online Film Dictionary

This dictionary is a resource for users to better understand movie-specific terms in foreign languages. In addition to the English terminology, the dictionary has French, German and Spanish version.

Strike the baby and kill the blonde: an insider’s guide to film slang. Dave Knox. New York: Three Rivers Press, c2005.

Not owned by Yale.

Schirmer encyclopedia of film. Ed. Barry Keith Grant. Detroit: Schirmer Reference, 2007.

SML Reference, PN1993.45 S35X 2007+

Variety Slanguage Dictionary

Variety has long used its own, distinctive "slanguage" in headlines and stories, words like "ankle," which refers to someone leaving (say, walking away from) a job, or "whammo," which refers to something terrific, especially box office performance. This website provides explains their characteristic terminology.

Director, Film Study Center