Why Yes, I Still Use a Dictionary!

National Dictionary Day, Noah Webster, Lexicon

Every year on October 16, we celebrate National Dictionary Day! Of course people still use a dictionary or thesaurus as reference and research guides. Did you know that in 1806, Noah Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807, he began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, which took twenty-seven years to complete. To help in his writing and to evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-six languages, including Old English(Anglo-Saxon), German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit.

In 1828, at the age of 70, Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language in two quarto volumes containing 70,000 entries, as against the 58,000 of any previous dictionary. There were 2,500 copies printed. At first Webster’s innovative ideas about language and politics were poorly received. Culturally, conservative Federalists denounced the work as radical — too inclusive in its lexicon and even bordering on vulgar. Meanwhile, Webster’s old foes the Jeffersonian Republicans attacked the man, labeling him mad for such an undertaking.

Nowadays, many ask “Who uses a dictionary anymore?” I for one continue to pull out my dictionary, since it is a great resource for identifying the meaning of words I am not familiar with or finding synonyms to keep my writing fresh. Check out www.merriam-webster.com for the “Word of the Day,” videos, mobile and Kindle versions, spelling and ways to strengthen your vocabulary. Do you still use a dictionary?

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