Books

Who invented the dictionary?

I was literally researching a word for a college class when the thought just came to me. So I looked it up and as we all know, dictionaries haven’t always been on hand to show us the meaning of words we don’t know. The first English book that was called a dictionary wasn’t written until around 1552 or so and the first English dictionary listing ordinary words as well as difficult words was published in 1702. About 50 years later, the renowned English writer Samuel Johnson brought out his own dictionary, which he wrote entirely by himself over an eight-year period!

By this stage, dictionaries had evolved to contain textual references for most words, and were arranged alphabetically, rather than by topic (a previously popular form of arrangement, which meant all animals would be grouped together, etc.). Johnson’s masterwork could be judged as the first to bring all these elements together, creating the first ‘modern’ dictionary

Webster published his first American dictionary in 1806, with about 40,000 words. In 1828, he brought out another with almost twice as many words. Webster’s name still appears on many American dictionaries. But the word Webster’s has come to be just a title, like the word dictionary itself, and anyone who publishes a dictionary can call it Webster’s.

But I’m a history person so I decided to look deeper or deeper in time if you will.

I found out that, the oldest known dictionaries were cuneiform tablets with a bilingual wordlists, discovered in Ebla (modern Syria) and dated roughly 2300B.C. The early 2nd millennium B.C. glossary is the canonical Babylonian version of such bilingual Sumerian wordlists. A Chinese dictionary, the c. 3rd century B.C. Erya, was the earliest surviving monolingual dictionary; although some sources say that the 800 B.C. Shizhoupian as a “dictionary”.

Just scratching the surface of this topic but…..Your Thoughts?

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