A question about the spelling of an Italian word prompted me to think that perhaps we might want to limit questions whose answer can be quickly found just by looking up a word in a dictionary. I believe that in other SE sites one is encouraged to do some research, and perhaps even describe it, before resorting to asking their question. What about here?


5 Answers 5


Basic questions that call for no more than a dictionary lookup have no place on Stack Exchange. Stack Exchange is a questions and answers site, requiring people to put in effort into writing answers. This effort is wasted if it's duplicating the work put into making dictionaries.

This isn't really a matter of effort put into the question, but a matter of expectations on the content of answers. If a question calls for an answer that draws on multiple sources, requires a native's specific expertise, or has to be tailored to the question, then it's a good Stack Exchange question.

Typically, “what does this word mean?” is a bad question and should be closed to avoid wasting time on it and do avoid dragging the site down. On the other hand, “I don't understand this sentence, what does the word mean? The dictionary definition makes no sense in context.” is exactly the kind of questions that Stack Exchange is for.

English Language & Usage had a “general reference” close reason for a long time, now replaced by

Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references

English Language Learners has the close reason

Basic questions on spelling, meaning or pronunciation are off-topic as they should be answered using a dictionary. See: Policy for questions that are entirely answerable with a dictionary

French Language has the close reason (after requesting a “general reference” reason before sites could have their own close reasons)

Please look up the meaning of words or expressions in a dictionary first. If you did so and found nothing satisfactory, mention that in your question. Do give context for where you heard or saw the word.


Italian is a very, very rich language, every word or spelling ha a history. We should definitely allow simple questions, and they should be answered thoroughly, not superficially.

In the example you cite, it is important to explain the origin of "d'accordo" and also the fact that "daccordo" is in common-enough use that it is acceptable, if rare. The last point, for example, was unknown to me, a native speaker, and the first point was probably most useful to the OP.

As you can see from the example, we can definitely make the Interet a better place even with easy questions as long as we don't simply scuff it off and answer "Search on Google".

  • In other SEs there is a more of a tendency to assume you have done, so to say, your homework, rather than lazily resort to SE. But unless there will be a flood of very elementary questions (remember that we are in a closed beta right now), it's fine for me to continue as we are doing now.
    – DaG
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 10:45
  • 2
    What I mean is: if this site has to be useful to Italian learners, we should accept Italian-learning questions, which might be very simple for native Italians. However, I do agree that a modicum of effort is required. I think that requiring effort and requiring complexity are two different concepts.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 10:50
  • I agree with the distinction “requiring effort” vs. “requiring complexity”: this is what I meant - perhaps not too clearly - by “easily answerable questions” which, in my mind, is different from “simple questions”.
    – DaG
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 11:10

Questions about spelling are often not simply answerable with ‘look up in a dictionary‘, because different dictionaries have different ideas.

I understand that the question about spelling is just an example and I can think of other ‘simple questions‘ that could be closed as soon as they appear. Let's see how it goes, I wouldn't start closing questions too early, if they are on topic.


After casting a close vote on Past participle of the verb 'irrompere', I propose we disallow questions that can be resolved by looking at a vocabulary.

While I agree that some questions look easy answerable, when they really are not, some of them are actually easily answerable.

As any SE site, anything that doesn't show some research effort should be closed mercilessly. We are not here to conjugate verbs for you.

  • 2
    Why the downvotes? Wouldn't it be more useful to argue about what Gabriele wrote?
    – DaG
    Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 9:25

This is an example of a bad question. It barely uses the (English) word Italian, uses no Italian words, and is not in any way, shape or form, about the Italian language (culture maybe). Yet it has received two answers, but only one downvote (mine), cancelled by an upvote after nearly four days, and 75-80 views.

I am on about nine SE language sites (counting Italian), and have cast "only" nine downvotes across all nine sites. This question is easily in the worst ten (more like worst five), I've seen on all language sites. I'm surprised that the only downvote (so far) came from someone who probably downvotes "too little."

A number of questions in the thread are slightly better than this one. If I see a site that lets this question go,I would conclude that the others are acceptable, even though they're not. If the others are not, then perhaps this one should be closed and/or downvoted.

Here is one of those "slightly better" questions that at least uses Italian words or tries to. I would not downvote this myself, but would not disagree with someone who felt the other way.

  • What question? Is the link correct?
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 17:38
  • @DaG:The link has been corrected. Thanks so much for the "catch."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 17:43
  • You are right: both are good examples of bad questions.
    – DaG
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 19:26

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