Merriam-Webster

Last updated

Merriam-Webster
Merriam-Webster logo.svg
Parent company Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Founded1831;190 years ago (1831)
Founder George Merriam, Charles Merriam
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters location Springfield, Massachusetts
Publication typesReference books, online dictionaries
Owner(s) Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.; Jacqui Safra
Official website merriam-webster.com

Merriam-Webster, Inc. is an American company that publishes reference books and is especially known for its dictionaries.

Contents

In 1831, George and Charles Merriam founded the company as G & C Merriam Co. in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1843, after Noah Webster died, the company bought the rights to An American Dictionary of the English Language from Webster's estate. All Merriam-Webster dictionaries trace their lineage to this source.

In 1964, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. acquired Merriam-Webster, Inc. as a subsidiary. The company adopted its current name in 1982. [1] [2]

Origins

Noah Webster

In 1806, Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807 Webster started two decades of intensive work to expand his publication into a fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language. To help him trace the etymology of words, Webster learned 26 languages. Webster hoped to standardize American speech, since Americans in different parts of the country used somewhat different vocabularies and spelled, pronounced, and used words differently.

Webster completed his dictionary during his year abroad in 1825 in Paris, and at the University of Cambridge. His 1820s book contained 70,000 words, of which about 12,000 had never appeared in a dictionary before. As a spelling reformer, Webster believed that English spelling rules were unnecessarily complex, so his dictionary introduced American English spellings, replacing colour with color, waggon with wagon, and centre with center. He also added American words, including skunk and squash , that did not appear in British dictionaries. At the age of 70 in 1828, Webster published his dictionary; it sold poorly, with only 2,500 copies, and put him in debt. However, in 1840, he published the second edition in two volumes with much greater success.

Merriam as publisher

In 1843, after Webster's death, George Merriam and Charles Merriam secured publishing and revision rights to the 1840 edition of the dictionary. They published a revision in 1847, which did not change any of the main text but merely added new sections, and a second update with illustrations in 1859. In 1864, Merriam published a greatly expanded edition, which was the first version to change Webster's text, largely overhauling his work yet retaining many of his definitions and the title "An American Dictionary". This began a series of revisions that were described as being "unabridged" in content. In 1884 it contained 118,000 words, "3000 more than any other English dictionary". [3]

With the edition of 1890, the dictionary was retitled Webster's International. The vocabulary was vastly expanded in Webster's New International editions of 1909 and 1934, totaling over half a million words, with the 1934 edition retrospectively called Webster's Second International or simply "The Second Edition" of the New International.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition Collegiate Dictionary.jpg
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

The Collegiate Dictionary was introduced in 1898 and the series is now in its eleventh edition. Following the publication of Webster's International in 1890, two Collegiate editions were issued as abridgments of each of their Unabridged editions. Merriam overhauled the dictionary again with the 1961 Webster's Third New International under the direction of Philip B. Gove, making changes that sparked public controversy. Many of these changes were in formatting, omitting needless punctuation, or avoiding complete sentences when a phrase was sufficient. Others, more controversial, signaled a shift from linguistic prescriptivism and towards describing American English as it was used at that time. [4]

With the ninth edition (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (WNNCD), published in 1983), the Collegiate adopted changes which distinguish it as a separate entity rather than merely an abridgment of the Third New International (the main text of which has remained virtually unrevised since 1961). Some proper names were returned to the word list, including names of Knights of the Round Table. The most notable change was the inclusion of the date of the first known citation of each word, to document its entry into the English language. The eleventh edition (published in 2003) includes more than 225,000 definitions, and more than 165,000 entries. A CD-ROM of the text is sometimes included. This dictionary is preferred as a source "for general matters of spelling" by the influential The Chicago Manual of Style , which is followed by many book publishers and magazines in the United States. The Chicago Manual states that it "normally opts for" the first spelling listed. [5]

The G. & C. Merriam Company lost its right to exclusive use of the name "Webster" after a series of lawsuits placed that name in public domain. Its name was changed to "Merriam-Webster, Incorporated", with the publication of Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary in 1983. Previous publications had used "A Merriam-Webster Dictionary" as a subtitle for many years and will be found on older editions.

Since the 1940s, the company has added many specialized dictionaries, language aides, and other references to its repertoire. The company has been a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. since 1964.

Services

In 1996, Merriam-Webster launched its first website, which provided free access to an online dictionary and thesaurus. [6]

Merriam-Webster has also published dictionaries of synonyms, English usage, geography ( Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary ), biography, proper names, medical terms, sports terms, slang, Spanish/English, and numerous others. Non-dictionary publications include Collegiate Thesaurus, Secretarial Handbook, Manual for Writers and Editors, Collegiate Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of Literature, and Encyclopedia of World Religions.

On February 16, 2007, Merriam-Webster announced the launch of a mobile dictionary and thesaurus service developed with mobile search-and-information provider AskMeNow. Consumers use the service to access definitions, spelling and synonyms via text message. Services also include Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day—and Open Dictionary, a wiki service that provides subscribers the opportunity to create and submit their own new words and definitions. [7]

Pronunciation guides

The Merriam-Webster company once used a unique set of phonetic symbols in their dictionaries—intended to help people from different parts of the United States learn how to pronounce words the same way as others who spoke with the same accent or dialect did. Unicode accommodated IPA symbols from Unicode version 1.1 published in 1993, but did not support the phonetic symbols specific to Merriam-Webster dictionaries until Unicode version 4.0 published in 2003. Hence, to enable computerized access to the pronunciation without having to rework all dictionaries to IPA notation, the online services of Merriam-Webster specify phonetics using a less-specific set of ASCII characters.

Writing entries

Merriam creates entries by finding uses of a particular word in print and recording them in a database of citations. [4] Editors at Merriam spend about an hour a day looking at print sources, from books and newspapers to less formal publications, like advertisements and product packaging, to study the uses of individual words and choose things that should be preserved in the citation file. Merriam-Webster's citation file contains more than 16 million entries documenting individual uses of words. Millions of these citations are recorded on 3-by-5 cards in their paper citation files. The earliest entries in the paper citation files date back to the late 19th century. Since 2009, all new entries are recorded in an electronic database. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

Dictionary Collection of words and their meanings

A dictionary is a listing of lexemes from the lexicon of one or more specific languages, often arranged alphabetically, which may include information on definitions, usage, etymologies, pronunciations, translation, etc.. It is a lexicographical reference that shows inter-relationships among the data.

Thesaurus Reference work that lists words grouped by similarity of meaning

A thesaurus or synonym dictionary is a reference work for finding synonyms and sometimes antonyms of words. They are often used by writers to help find the best word to express an idea:

...to find the word, or words, by which [an] idea may be most fitly and aptly expressed

Webster's Dictionary is any of the dictionaries edited by Noah Webster in the early nineteenth century, and numerous related or unrelated dictionaries that have adopted the Webster's name. "Webster's" has become a genericized trademark in the U.S. for dictionaries of the English language, and is widely used in English dictionary titles. Merriam-Webster is the corporate heir to Noah Webster's original works, which are in the public domain.

<i>The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language</i>

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD) is an American dictionary of English published by Boston publisher Houghton Mifflin, the first edition of which appeared in 1969. Its creation was spurred by the controversy over the perceived permissiveness of the Webster's Third New International Dictionary. The third edition had more than 350,000 entries and meanings.

<i>Macquarie Dictionary</i> Dictionary of Australian English

The Macquarie Dictionary is a dictionary of Australian English. It is generally considered by universities and the legal profession to be the authoritative source on Australian English. It also pays considerable attention to New Zealand English. Originally it was a publishing project of Jacaranda Press, a Brisbane educational publisher, for which an editorial committee was formed, largely from the Linguistics department of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. It is now published by Macquarie Dictionary Publishers, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd. In October 2007 it moved its editorial office from Macquarie University to the University of Sydney, and later to the Pan Macmillan offices in the Sydney central business district.

<i>Websters New World Dictionary</i>

Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language is an American dictionary first published in 1951 and since 2012 published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary is a large American dictionary, first published in 1966 as The Random House Dictionary of the English Language: The Unabridged Edition. Edited by Jess Stein, it contained 315,000 entries in 2256 pages, as well as 2400 illustrations. The CD-ROM version in 1994 also included 120,000 spoken pronunciations.

American and British English spelling differences Comparison between US and UK English spelling

Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and within different regions of the same country, there are only slight regional variations in English orthography, the two most notable variations being British and American spelling. Many of the differences between American and British English date back to a time before spelling standards were developed. For instance, some spellings seen as "American" today were once commonly used in Britain, and some spellings seen as "British" were once commonly used in the United States.

Dictionary (software)

Dictionary is an application developed by Apple Inc. as a part of macOS. The application provides definitions and synonyms from various dictionaries, Wikipedia articles and a glossary of Apple-related terms.

Oxford spelling is a spelling standard that prescribes the use of British spelling in combination with the suffix -ize in words like realize and organization, in contrast to use of -ise endings.

Irregardless is a word sometimes used in place of regardless or irrespective, which has caused controversy since the early twentieth century, though the word appeared in print as early as 1795.

<i>Websters Third New International Dictionary</i> Unabridged American English dictionary

Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged was published in September 1961. It was edited by Philip Babcock Gove and a team of lexicographers who spent 757 editor-years and $3.5 million. The most recent printing has 2,816 pages, and as of 2005, it contained more than 476,000 vocabulary entries, 500,000 definitions, 140,000 etymologies, 200,000 verbal illustrations, 350,000 example sentences, 3,000 pictorial illustrations and an 18,000-word Addenda section.

A pronunciation respelling for English is a notation used to convey the pronunciation of words in the English language, which does not have a phonemic orthography.

J Letter of the Latin alphabet

J, or j, is the tenth letter in the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its usual name in English is jay, with a now-uncommon variant jy. When used in the International Phonetic Alphabet for the y sound, it may be called yod or jod.

<i>Official Scrabble Players Dictionary</i>

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary or OSPD is a dictionary developed for use in the game Scrabble, by speakers of American and Canadian English.

The lists of Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year are ten-word lists published annually by the American dictionary-publishing company Merriam-Webster, Inc., which feature the ten words of the year from the English language. These word lists started in 2003 and have been published at the end of each year. At first, Merriam-Webster determined its contents by analyzing page hits and popular searches on its website. Since 2006, the list has been determined by an online poll and by suggestions from visitors to the website.

The English word twat is a vulgarism which literally means the vulva or vagina, and is used figuratively as a derogatory epithet. In British English the epithet denotes an obnoxious or stupid person of either sex, whereas in American English it is rarer and usually applied to a woman. In Britain the usual current pronunciation is ; the older pronunciation, still usual in the United States, is, reflected in the former variant spelling twot. The literal sense is first attested in 1656, the epithet in the 1930s. The word's etymology is uncertain. The American Heritage Dictionary suggests a conjectural Old English word *thwāt, "a cut", cognate with Old Norse þveit (thveit). Jonathon Green suggests a connection with twitchel, a dialect term for a narrow passage.

References

  1. "Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  2. "An American Dictionary of the English Language". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  3. "Webster's Unabridged". The Week : A Canadian Journal of Politics, Literature, Science and Arts. 1 (10): 160. February 11, 1884. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 Fatsis, Stefan (January 12, 2015). "The Definition of a Dictionary". Slate. ISSN   1091-2339 . Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  5. The Chicago Manual of Style , 15th edition, New York and London: University of Chicago Press, 2003, Chapter 7: "Spelling, Distinctive Treatment of Words, and Compounds", Section 7.1 "Introduction", p. 278.
  6. Merriam-Webster, merriam-webster.com, Timeline: Merriam-Webster Milestones, archived from the original on January 13, 2015, retrieved October 14, 2018
  7. Trusca, Sorin (February 16, 2007). "AskMeNow and Merriam-Webster Launch Mobile Dictionary". Softpedia . Retrieved March 14, 2014.