• dictionary •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A large collection of words and phrases of a language with their definitions, origins, pronunciation, orthography, and other relevant information. 2. A large collection of words and phrases with their translations into another language.
Notes: We were saving this word for Dictionary Day next year, but last week the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED) celebrated its 80th birthday and we thought today's word would be a suitable present. This dictionary started at the Philological Society of London in 1857 with the collection of slips of paper with words and definitions sent from all over Britain and, later, from all the major English-speaking Nations. One of the most prolific contributors was W. C. Minor, an American surgeon who was an inmate in Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane at the time.
In Play: In 1879 the Oxford University Press agreed to publish the OED but the final fascicle was published only in 1928, which is why we are celebrating the OED's 80th anniversary this year. As of 2005, the OED contained 301,100 entries and a total of 616,500 word-forms (works, worked, working are forms of the entry work). The words and their citations go back to Anglo-Saxon times, as early as the mid 12th century. It has become the foremost lexical institution of the English language.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Medieval Latin dictionarium "a collection of words and phrases", based on Latin dictio(n) "diction" + -arium "place of", as in aquarium and planetarium. We find this suffix in its English guise in words like library, mortuary, and glossary. Dictio, dictionis comes from the verb dicere "to say". We find the root of this verb in many words borrowed from Latin: interdict, abdicate, and verdict, to mention just three. The original root that developed into dicere in Latin became teach in English. (We would like to wish the OED the happiest of birthdays, congratulations on a fantastic job of lexical compilation, and best wishes for continued success.)
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