Dictionary Day

Author JL Huffman
3 min readOct 16, 2023
Noah Webster

October 16, 1758, was the birthdate of Noah Webster, the “father” of the American dictionary. At the age of 16, he began college at Yale to study teaching.

“Blue-Backed Speller”

He had a zeal to reform the American academic system. The Blue-Backed Speller was his first textbook, which addressed English language grammar.

26 Languages

In 1801, he began to define American terms that differed from spoken language in England. To facilitate the dictionary creation, he learned 26 languages.

Amherst College

Despite Webster’s busy career, he also founded Amherst College.

An American Dictionary of the English Language

The first edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1806, corrected English spellings to American English spellings, i.e., colour to color and musick to music. This edition defined 37,000 words; Webster’s last edition, in 1828, included over 65,000 terms.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When Webster died in 1843, G&C Merriam, Co. bought the rights to An American Dictionary of the English Language. George and Charles Merriam continued to refine the book and renamed it the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It sold for $6.00. The 2022 edition contains over 75,000 definitions. Merriam-Webster has published dictionaries for multiple audiences: First, Children’s, Elementary, Intermediate, Collegiate, Basic, Visual, etc. In addition, they have produced versions that address rhyming words, synonyms, and antonyms, as well as specialized volumes for medical and law professionals.

Visual Thesaurus

When was the last time you opened a paper dictionary? It’s been years for me. As a student, I carried pocket dictionaries and kept the larger volumes at home on my desk. Today, I turn to the internet if I have questions about spelling, definitions, synonyms, or antonyms. My personal favorite is the Visual Thesaurus. In addition to the standard paper versions, various online sources are available: Merriam-Webster, the Cambridge Dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Dictionary, and many more.

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Author JL Huffman

I’m a retired Trauma surgeon/ICU doctor, a world traveler and gardener. I’ve published in the surgical literature; now I’m writing poetry, memoir & fiction.