Surprising facts about dictionaries

Dictionaries might seem like the most utilitarian and basic tool to help you in writing and understanding a language. But there are lots of interesting facts that you would not know about the dictionary. Like, why did Noah Webster learn Sanskrit to write his dictionary? Read on to know more such fun facts.

Adding a new word to a dictionary is no easy work

Lexicographers keep an eye on a word or phrase that’s widely and frequently used by people and printed online or offline. Once such a word comes into their notice, they collect citations of the word, effectively document the source and contextual meaning. Next step, database research is conducted, which identifies the usage of the word over time by people from different backgrounds. This is passed to dictionary editors, who review all of this groundwork before finally approving the addition of the new word in the dictionary.

To write his dictionary, Noah Webster learned 26 languages

Despite the fact that he was not the first American to write a dictionary, his contributions were so significant that his name is synonymous with the American dictionary. He wrote the ‘American Dictionary of the English Language’ for which he became an etymology expert by learning 26 languages, including Sanskrit and Old English. His dictionary published in 1828 had 70,000 entries!

You could buy the first Merriam-Webster dictionary for $6

The Merriam brothers bought the right to revise ‘American Dictionary of the English Language’ when Websters died in 1843. In the year 1847, the Merriam Brothers published and sold the first revised issue of the Merriam-Webster dictionary for six dollars. Merriam-Webster, Inc continues to print and sell the ever-popular dictionary in print and electronic formats.

Oxford English Dictionary took 50 years to be created

Currently, Oxford English Dictionary is the most widely used and respected dictionary in the world. The final volume was published in 1928, the work which started in 1857 when the Philology Society of London decided to create a comprehensive dictionary of words from the 12th century to the present. They joined hands with Oxford University press to commence work with the first part of the dictionary published in 1884.

Despite the rigour, sometimes fake words make their way into a dictionary

‘Phantomnation’ appeared in an 1864 edition of Webster’s dictionary due to a case of missing hyphens. Such human errors have happened over the centuries, but there have been typographical errors as well.

There are Urban Dictionary as well that is often considered as the slang heaven. It’s an interesting document that is much beyond words.

Priyadarshini Kaul

Priyadarshini Kaul Mishra has two Master’s Degrees in English Literature and History. She is actively following her passion for the language by being a content creator since many years now. Besides this, Priyadarshini is a true bookworm at heart and tries to be an avid reader despite being a full-time mother now. She is also a professionally certified baker and puts on the oven mitts every now and then.
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