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Saturday, 25 October 2014


The oldest known dictionaries were Akkadian Empire cuneiform tablets.

A Breton-French-Latin dictionary The Catholicon was written in 1464 by Jehan Lagadeuc and published in Tréguier (Brittany) in 1499. It was the first Breton dictionary as well as the first French dictionary.

Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall of 1604, which is often seen as the first English dictionary, had no words beginning with J, K, U, W, X or Y.  J and I were seen as the same letter at that time, as were U and V, so only K, W, X and Y words were really absent.

Albrecht von Haller (1708-77) was a Swiss anatomist and physiologist and a pioneer of neurology. A child prodigy, Haller is claimed to have written a Greek dictionary at the age of 10.

The English lexicographer, Natan Bailey was the compiler of An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1721, supplement 1727), which was used by Dr Johnson as the basis of his own dictionary. All that is known about Bailey is that he was a Seventh-day Adventist, and kept a boarding-school in Stepney, London.

Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in London on April 15, 1755. Johnson’s dictionary was the first work to try to include all English words with definitions and examples.

Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was the leading dictionary until the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) appeared 173 years later.

Johnson thought his dictionary would take three years to complete. Actually it took nine years.

Lexicographer Noah Webster copyrighted the first edition of his dictionary of American English on April 14, 1828.

Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) in two volumes was the first dictionary to give comprehensive coverage of American usage, and his name survives in the many dictionaries produced by the American publishing house.

Extract from the Orthography section of the first edition of American Dictionary of the English Language 

Noah Webster used only one proof-reader while working on  An American Dictionary of the English Language.

It took 20 years for Noah Webster to compile his first dictionary.

There were 2,500 copies printed, at $20 for the two volumes. At first the set sold poor, but when he lowered the price to $15, its sales improved, and by 1836 that edition was exhausted.

Webster was forced to mortgage his home to develop a second edition, which was published in 1841, Webster's life from then on was plagued with debt.

The first volume (A to Ant) of the Oxford English Dictionary was published on February 1, 1884.

The first complete edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was not published until 1928. Planned as a 10-year project, the 44-year undertaking resulted in a comprehensive, historical dictionary of English—the longest in the world today.

At a whopping 20 volumes weighing over 137 pounds, it would reportedly take one person 120 years to type all 59 million words in the OED.

The OED includes definitions for about 600,000 words.

 It required more than 800 volunteers to compile material for the OED.

A major contributor of quotations to the OED was William Chester Minor, a former US Army surgeon who was held in Broadmoor lunatic asylum after killing a man.

Until recently, the word with most definitions in the OED was ‘set’ but the current winner is ‘run’.

Sources Daily Express, The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia. Developed by The Learning Company, Inc. Copyright (c) 1997 TLC Properties Inc. 

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