A simple entry has three parts. First is the Lubwisi headword. This begins each entry and is shown in bold type. Second is the grammatical part of speech which is shown in an abbreviated form in italic type. (See the List of Abbreviations where these are expanded). Third is the definition which shows the meaning of the Lubwisi headword in English. In many of the definitions there are a number of equivalent English words that can be used to describe the Lubwisi meaning. These are listed separated by commas ending with a semicolon. Sometimes, after the semicolon a further explaining phrase is given that serves to expand the definition.
In the first example given above, The Lubwisi word, ‘kugimba’, only has one meaning. Sometimes however, words have multiple meanings. These multiple meanings are called senses and they are indicated in the dictionary by sense numbers. Each sense begins with a number followed by a dot. The various senses in an entry have distinct meanings, but they are all related in some way. That is why they are given numbers and listed under a single Lubwisi headword.
Occasionally you will notice that the headword is immediately followed by a small lowered number. The lowered number is used to distinguish what we call homonyms. Homonyms are words that have the same spelling but are unrelated in meaning.
Words that describe things are called nouns and are indicated with n. as the part of speech. When you want to look up a Lubwisi noun you should look for the singular form of the noun. E.g., in the example above, a bone or skeleton is listed with the Lubwisi headword ‘ekuwa’, not ‘makuwa’. If there is a plural form it will be listed after the singular form and preceded with the label Pl:. In some few instances the plural form is more common and will be listed as the headword. If there is a singular form, then it will be preceded with the label Sg:
Sometimes a meaning is figurative, and not literal. It may be a metaphor or an idiom. In these cases after the sense number you may find the label Metaphor. or Idiom. A metaphor indicates that this sense uses the Lubwisi word in a way that is not literal. An idiom is similar—it is a phrase with a meaning that cannot be determined from the individual words that make up that phrase. In other cases you may see Euph. or Taboo. A euphemism is a polite way of expressing a meaning that would otherwise be disrespectful or too harsh. Taboo indicates that the Lubwisi word is considered offensive, and should not be used in normal conversation.
You may also notice words that appear in bold, like a Lubwisi headword, yet they are indented from the margin. These words are sub entries. They are related to the Lubwisi headword that precedes them and are derived from that headword. They are indented to show this relationship.
Sometime a Lubwisi headword will have a slightly different sound or spelling dependent on the speaker who uses the word. These are called variants. If a variant is known it will be listed immediately after the headword and is preceded with the label Var. If a variant or a sub entry has a spelling that begins in a different way to their parent headword then the subentry or the variant will be found as a minor entry in the correct alphabetical place in the dictionary. The label, See main entry: will refer you back to the main headword where the full definition of the variant or sub entry will be found.
Where a word is similar in meaning to another word in a different part of the dictionary this will be marked with the label Syn: indicating that the two words are synonyms. Only some synonyms have been marked in this first edition of the dictionary.
Where it is known that a word has originally come from another language, then this has been indicated by the label: From:
Some plant and animal terms have been given their proper scientific names. This name, if known, will be underlined and italicised.