Looking at the number of tweets and followers, I had subscribed to a twitter account of 'Vocabulary Builder'. It tweets about the words and I try to learn from it.

The word it posted today is...

Preshipped (noun) - Large vessel for navigating in water

Though the word does not seem to be popular, Collin's definition is all different for that word (And I agree with this) -

preshipped (adjective) - relating to items sent ahead of time

Kindly clarify this to me.

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    It's exactly the meaning of 'Ship' : " Large vessel for navigating in water". It seems to be a typo. Aug 30, 2014 at 7:32
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the limitations of software-created definitions. Aug 30, 2014 at 17:43
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    @FumbleFingers, C'mon - my answer is about dodgy software (or a dodgy person) the question wasn't.
    – Frank
    Aug 30, 2014 at 18:29
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    @Fumble - This question was prompted by someone trying to improve their English by using a program called Vocabulary Builder, which gave erroneous information. It seems like the O.P. already had doubts about the reliability of the program, but wanted to double-check. ELL was designed to give learners a place to ask a question about English without people coming along and saying, "This question is completely stupid." For the native, perhaps; for the learner, maybe not so much. I'd upvote your last comment on ELU, but, here on ELL, I find that attitude irritatingly condescending.
    – J.R.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 15:59
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    @FumbleFingers - What do you find unusual about the definition in Collins? By the way, I have no problem with you standing by your closevote (we have the right to agree to disagree), but I'd ask that you'd be more careful before you leave comments that deem questions "completely stupid" – that's not playing nice.
    – J.R.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


It looks rather like that Twitter feed is using Dictionary.com as it's source (with some adjustment to the actual text).

Sadly, Dictionary.com 'auto-finds' the nearest word it knows to that which you type.

If you type preshipped you get the definition for ship. The first entry for ship is for the noun ship (as you'd expect) and the wording is almost exactly the same.

I checked a couple of others near preshipped. Some of them have slightly altered wording but it's clear dictionary.com is the source.

  • Quasinormal gives the definition for normal
  • Halfaquiescent gives the definition for aquiescent
  • Digressionary gives the definition for digression

All in all I'd suggest that you should not trust the definition from 'Vocabulary Builder' until after checking the definition at Dictionary.com, unless you want your vocabulary to be large, but substantially wrong. I guess it is an OK source for new words, it's just that the definitions might not be correct.

Dictionary.com definitions are trustworthy, the definitions 'Vocabularly Builder' chooses out of the choice given at Dictionary.com for a word are most certainly not trustworthy.

Edit (for preshipped)

As noted in the question, preshipped is defined in the Collins dictionary but that appears to be the only on-line definition of the word. Much of OED2 and OED on-line is exactly as it was in OED1 and has not been updated since OED1. As a related example, OED2 has only a single mention of airfreight and that is in one of it's examples of usage for the word freight. The definition of airfreight can be found in many on-line dictionaries.

The first mention of preshipped that I can find in Google Books is from 1943 (there are earlier references suggested but they are incorrect) in a report from the US Armed Forces regarding preshipment of materials.

There are a few mentions in a logistics report, United States Army in World War II Global Logistics and Strategy, Robert W. Coakley and these seem to suggest that the word is being used to mean shipped before a need [for the equipment] has been properly identified, based on an assumption that there might/will be a need in the future.

When preshipped was in it's infancy, early 1940's, it was used in a military sense particularly by the US Armed Forces (and US Congress when discussing it). There's a nice mention of it here in the Department of the Army technical manual Operators, Organizational, Direct Support, General Support and Depot Maintenance Manual Including Repair Parts and Special Tool Lists: Teletypewriter Terminal AN/MGC-22,, United States. Dept. of the Army where there is a distinction made between preshipped and requisitioned.

Late 20th and early 21st century examples are not limited to military use, although that is still the major usage; modern usage covers software distribution, personal belongings being shipped to a destination before the owner, meat samples preshipped before the full delivery etc. etc.

The most recent usage I could find harks back to the 1943 usage of ship something in the expectation that it will be needed in the future and describes (the on-line retailer) Amazon's new anticipatory shipping technique; you can find it in this article at TechCrunch.com.

Summary : preshipped appears to be a term used initially in the field of US Armed Forces logistics since the early 1940's. It now appears to be gaining more widespread use. Given time, it is bound to appear in more dictionaries as they are updated.

  • I agree with this answer, but I think your conclusion is a bit harsh. My recommendation would be that folks using VB should take their tweets with a grain of salt.
    – J.R.
    Aug 30, 2014 at 9:26
  • This is the third such instance I remember of VB. Every time, I retweet mentioning the error but they never respond. I am pretty sure, the posting is through some tailor-made software. Anyway... 'Unfollowed' ;)
    – Maulik V
    Aug 30, 2014 at 9:30
  • @J.R. I've lightened up a little, making it clearer that Dictionary.com is NOT wrong.
    – Frank
    Aug 30, 2014 at 9:41
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    Gaffes like the one the O.P. highlighted here do teach a valuable lesson about English. Many English words – like ship – function as both verbs and nouns (e.g., air, bet, cough, doubt, echo, find, grease, heat, ink, and jolt, to name a few). If poorly-designed software grabs an entry out of the dictionary, it could easily grab the meaning of the noun when the word form demands the meaning of the verb. This might also explain why rudimentary translation software often does such a bad job of translating short phrases.
    – J.R.
    Aug 30, 2014 at 10:00

Preshipped (noun) - Large vessel for navigating in water

This is wrong. Just wrong.

preshipped (adjective) - relating to items sent ahead of time

Don't learn whole-words like this. Break it down and the meaning is clear. That's how I was taught back in grade 3.

Pre- : to do before

Ship :

  • (noun) - Large vessel for navigating in water
  • (verb) - To transport something at reasonable cost and speed

-ed : past-tense suffix. Or passive form.

So, preshipped means the item was sent before it was needed / ordered, and maybe it was sent in the past. (the other meaning doesn't make any sense)

Why? If someone makes a product with known demand but very important (or very slow) delivery times they may send it expecting future sales.

"We preshipped the iPhone 6 to dealers last week."

"Winter tires are preshipped in September"

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    Just a nit- but where did you get that definition for ship (v)? I don't think reasonable cost and speed enters into it. Every time I ship something I pay too much and it takes too long, but I ship it anyway.
    – Jim
    Aug 30, 2014 at 17:25
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    I agree with @Jim - the approach here is good, but the example definition of ship (v) is clearly in error. To ship means to transport by air, train, boat, or truck; cost has little to do with it, and reasonableness even less so. The word ship can be defined in many different ways, but I can't find any dictionary definition that even mentions cost.
    – J.R.
    Aug 30, 2014 at 19:40
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    If I want it there quickly I say "courier". There's a huge difference between 2nd-class mail, FedEX and hiring your own aircraft. If it absolutely, positively has to be in Frankfurt in 24 hours we usually don't say "ship this box to Frankfurt".
    – paul
    Aug 31, 2014 at 3:23
  • @paul - What word would you use instead? Do you really use courier as a verb?
    – J.R.
    Aug 31, 2014 at 16:03
  • @paul you can definitely say that you want something shipped by a courier, or shipped by hiring your own aircraft - for example, macrumors.com/2013/09/11/… article about such a case would correctly use the verb 'ship'. A heading 'Apple couriers millions of iPhones' would sound blatantly wrong to me, though it might be okay for other uses. In any case, shipped is a more general form - it can be used also for deliveries of unreasonable cost and extreme speed.
    – Peteris
    Sep 1, 2014 at 8:27

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