Merriam–Webster, Incorporated, is an American company that publishes
reference books, especially known for its dictionaries.
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.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. acquired Merriam–Webster,
Inc. as a subsidiary. The company adopted its current name in
1.1 Noah Webster
1.2 Merriam as publisher
3 Pronunciation guides
4 Writing entries
5 See also
7 External links
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 putting him in debt. However, in 1840, he
published the second edition in two volumes with much greater success.
Author and poet Nathan W. Austin explores the intersection of
lexicographical and poetic practices in American literature, and
attempts to map out a "lexical poetics" using Webster's dictionaries
as a base. He shows ways that American poetry inherited Webster's
ideas and draws on his lexicography to develop the language. Austin
explicates key definitions from the Compendious (1806) and American
(1828) dictionaries, and expresses various concerns, including the
politics of American English, the question of national identity and
culture in the early moments of American independence, and the poetics
of citation and definition.
Merriam as publisher
Further information: Webster's Dictionary
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
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.
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.
In 1996, merriam–webster launched its first website, which provided
free access to an online dictionary and thesaurus.
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
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
Encyclopædia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite, includes
Lists of merriam–webster's Words of the Year
^ "merriam–webster Dictionary".
Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
^ "An American
Dictionary of the English Language". Encyclopædia
Britannica Online. 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
^ Nathan W. Austin, "Lost in the Maze of Words: Reading and Re-reading
Noah Webster's Dictionaries," Dissertation Abstracts International,
2005, Vol. 65 Issue 12, p. 4561
^ "Webster's Unabridged". The Week : a Canadian journal of
politics, literature, science and arts. 1 (10): 160. 11 Feb 1884.
Retrieved 26 April 2013.
^ 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.
^ a b c Fatsis, Stefan (12 Jan 2015). "The Definition of a
Dictionary". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2015-07-12.
^ merriam–webster, merriam-webster.com, Timeline: merriam–webster
Milestones, retrieved March 20, 2009
^ Trusca, Sorin (February 16, 2007). "
AskMeNow and merriam–webster
Launch Mobile Dictionary". Softpedia. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
Wikinews has related news: New words added to Webster's dictionary
G. & C. Merriam Company Collection, Amherst College Archives and
Nominee, 1998 award in the category Print+Zines