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What’s That Word? Look It Up!

by Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

A bookshelf isn’t complete without a trusty dictionary for checking out the spelling or meaning of a word. Did you ever wonder who wrote the dictionary and who decided the words should be spelled that way?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

little girl reading book What is a Dictionary?

Dictionaries are books that describe words, in alphabetical order. Sometimes a dictionary is called a vocabulary, lexicon, glossary, or wordbook. Some dictionaries tell us about the origin of a word, how to pronounce it, and in which context to use it. There are also two-language translation dictionaries, specialized dictionaries for chemistry, computing, physics, and others, and even dictionaries of slang and local dialect.

 

A Brief History of Dictionaries

The very earliest dictionaries were published before 1100 CE. They translated Latin words into Old English. Most people think that Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, was the first English dictionary, but it was actually A Table Alphabeticall, published in 1604 by Robert Cawdrey, an English schoolteacher. Today, the biggest, most comprehensive, and most famous dictionary is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The OED is revised and updated every three months.

Did You Know? The first edition of the OED was twelve volumes. It was started in 1884 and took 44 years to complete!

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