In 1828, 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.
|Parent company||Encyclopædia Britannica|
|Founder||George Merriam, Charles Merriam|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Springfield, Massachusetts|
|Publication types||Reference books, online dictionaries|
|Owner(s)||Britannica (Jacqui Safra)|
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.
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".
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.
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. 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.
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.
Since the 1940s, the company has added many specialized dictionaries, language aides, and other references to its repertoire.
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.
The company has been a subsidiary of Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. since 1964.
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.
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, but did not specify room for Merriam-Webster phonetics. 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.
Merriam creates entries by finding uses of a particular word in print and recording them in a database of citations. 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.
Alphanumeric is a combination of alphabetic and numeric characters, and is used to describe the collection of Latin letters and Arabic digits or a text constructed from this collection.
Merriam-Webster suggests that the term "alphanumeric" may often additionally refer to other symbols, such as punctuation and mathematical symbols.In the POSIX/C locale, there are either 36 (A-Z+0-9, case insensitive) or 62 (A-Z+a-z+0-9, case-sensitive) alphanumeric characters.Archenemy
An archenemy (sometimes spelled arch-enemy) is the main enemy of someone. In fiction, it is a character who is the hero's or protagonist's most prominent and worst enemy.Bibliophilia
Bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books, and a bibliophile or bookworm is an individual who loves and frequently reads books, though bookworm is sometimes used pejoratively.Commonly misspelled English words
Commonly misspelled English words (UK: misspelt words) are words that are often unintentionally misspelled in general writing.
A selected list of common words is presented below, under Documented list of common misspellings.
Although the word "common" is subjective depending on the situation, the focus is on general writing, rather than in a specific field. Official spellings also vary by country or region, with some rejecting the American or British variants as incorrect for the region.Within a particular field of study, such as computer graphics, other words might be more common for misspelling, such as "pixel" misspelled as "pixle" (or variants "cesium" and "caesium"). Sometimes words are purposely misspelled, as a form in slang, abbreviations, or in song lyrics, etc.
In general writing, some words are frequently misspelled, such as the incorrect spelling "concensus" for "consensus"
found in numerous webpages on the Internet. Other common misspellings include "equiptment" (for "equipment"),
"independant" (for "independent"),
"readible" (for readable),
or "usible" (for usable or useable).Eaves
The eaves are the edges of the roof which overhang the face of a wall and, normally, project beyond the side of a building. The eaves form an overhang to throw water clear of the walls and may be highly decorated as part of an architectural style, such as the Chinese dougong bracket systems.Eponym
An eponym is a person, place, or thing after whom or after which something is named, or believed to be named. The adjectives derived from eponym include eponymous and eponymic. For example, Elizabeth I of England is the eponym of the Elizabethan era, and "the eponymous founder of the Ford Motor Company" refers to Henry Ford. Recent usage, especially in the recorded-music industry, also allows eponymous to mean "named after its central character or creator".Google (verb)
As a result of the increasing popularity and dominance of the Google search engine, usage of the transitive verb to google (also spelled Google) grew ubiquitously. The neologism commonly refers to searching for information on the World Wide Web, regardless of which search engine is used. The American Dialect Society chose it as the "most useful word of 2002." It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary on June 15, 2006, and to the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in July 2006.Hello
Hello is a salutation or greeting in the English language. It is first attested in writing from 1826.Junior (education)
A junior is a student in their third year of study (generally referring to high school or college/university study) as coming immediately before their senior year. Juniors are considered upperclassmen.List of English words of Japanese origin
Words of Japanese origin have entered many languages. Some words are simple transliterations of Japanese language words for concepts inherent to Japanese culture, but some are actually words of Chinese origin that were first exposed to English via Japan. The words on this page are an incomplete list of words which are listed in major English dictionaries and whose etymologies include Japanese. The reverse of this list can be found at List of gairaigo and wasei-eigo terms.List of English words of Korean origin
This is a list of words of Korean origin which have entered into English usage.List of English words of Persian origin
As Indo-European languages, English and Persian are daughter languages of their common ancestral Proto-Indo-European, and still share many cognate words of similar forms. Examples of these include: English (mother) and Persian (mādar), English (father) and Persian (pedar), English (daughter) and Persian (dokhtar), English (brother) and Persian (barādar) and English (name) and Persian (nām). However, this article will be concerned with loanwords, that is, words in English that derive from Persian, either directly, or more often, from one or more intermediary languages.
Many words of Persian origin have made their way into the English language through different, often circuitous, routes. Some of them, such as "paradise", date to cultural contacts between the Persian people and the ancient Greeks or Romans and through Greek and Latin found their way to English. Persian as the second important language of Islam has influenced many languages in the Muslim world such as Arabic and Turkish, and its words have found their way beyond that region.
Iran (Persia) remained largely impenetrable to English-speaking travelers well into the 19th century. Iran was protected from Europe by overland trade routes that passed through territory inhospitable to foreigners, while trade at Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf was in the hands of locals. In contrast, intrepid English traders operated in Mediterranean seaports of the Levant from the 1570s, and some vocabulary describing features of Ottoman culture found their way into the English language. Thus many words in the list below, though originally from Persian, arrived in English through the intermediary of Ottoman Turkish language.
Many Persian words also came into English through Urdu during British colonialism.
Persian was the language of the Mughal court before British rule in India even though locals in North India spoke Hindusthani.
Other words of Persian origin found their way into European languages—and eventually reached English at second-hand—through the Moorish-Christian cultural interface in the Iberian peninsula during the Middle Ages thus being transmitted through Arabic.List of English words of Turkic origin
This is a list of words that have entered into the English language from the Turkic languages. Many of them came via traders and soldiers from and in the Ottoman Empire. There are some Turkic words as well, most of them entered English via the Russian language.List of ship directions
This list of ship directions provides succinct definitions for terms applying to spatial orientation in a marine environment or location on a vessel, such as fore, aft, astern, aboard, or topside.Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage
Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is a usage dictionary published by Merriam-Webster, Inc., of Springfield, Massachusetts . It is currently available in a reprint edition (1994) ISBN 0-87779-132-5 or ISBN 978-0-87779-132-4. (The 1989 edition did not include Merriam– in the title. It was added as part of the rebranding campaign to emphasize the differences between Merriam–Webster's dictionaries and dictionaries of other publishers using the generic trademark Webster's.)
The book has been praised by language experts. Stan Carey at the blog Sentence First concludes that it operates "in such a thorough and unbiased way is what elevates MWDEU so far above the ordinary. Each entry is presented in a much broader context than is typically the case in books that advise on English usage and style." It is critically acclaimed by the linguist Geoffrey Pullum, who calls it "the best usage book I know of... utterly wonderful." It is known for its historical scholarship, analysis, use of examples, and descriptive approach. It has more than 2,300 entries, and includes more than 20,000 quotations from prominent writers.A concise version is also available.Metalsmith
A metalsmith or simply smith is a craftsman fashioning useful items (for example, tools, kitchenware, tableware, jewellery, and weapons) out of various metals. Smithing is one of the oldest metalworking occupations. Shaping metal with a hammer (forging) is the archetypical component of smithing. Often the hammering is done while the metal is hot, having been heated in a forge. Smithing can also involve the other aspects of metalworking, such as refining metals from their ores (traditionally done by smelting), casting it into shapes (founding), and filing to shape and size.
The prevalence of metalworking in the culture of recent centuries has led Smith and its equivalents in various languages (German Schmidt, Portuguese Ferreiro, Ferreira, French Lefèvre, Spanish Herrero, Italian Fabbri, Ferrari, Ferrero, Ukrainian Koval etc.) to be a common occupational surname. As a suffix, -smith connotes a meaning of a specialized craftsman—for example, wordsmith and tunesmith are nouns synonymous with writer or songwriter, respectively.Past
The past is the set of all events that occurred before a given point in time. The past is contrasted with and defined by the present and the future. The concept of the past is derived from the linear fashion in which human observers experience time, and is accessed through memory and recollection. In addition, human beings have recorded the past since the advent of written language. The first known use of the word "past" was in the fourteenth century; it developed as the past participle of the middle english verb passen meaning "to pass."Plexus
A plexus (from the Latin for "braid") is a branching network of the vessels or nerves. The vessels may be blood vessels (veins, capillaries) or lymphatic vessels. The nerves are typically axons outside the central nervous system.
Although many medical words ending in -us that came to English from Latin have the plural suffix -i (and the plural form plexi indeed does exist in Latin), English does not use the -us/-i pattern for this particular term; the standard plural form in English is plexuses.Webster's Dictionary
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.
Nominee, 1998 award in the category Print+Zines