Dictionaries Have Changed

Dictionaries have changed over the years. How?

The very earliest dictionaries of English were actually glossaries that translated Latin words into Old English - the form of English spoken before about 1100 A.D.

The monolingual dictionary (one that lists English words and gives definitions in English) didn't appear until 1600 - so Shakespeare did much of his work without even the possibility of looking things up! For the first century or so, these dictionaries only defined hard words. It wasn't until the 18th century that dictionaries grew and included most meanings of even common words. During that century most of the features we associate with dictionaries first appeared, such as pronunciations, etymologies and parts of speech. In the nineteenth century dictionaries of English began to attempt to cover the whole vocabulary.

Large collections of examples of word usage were built up and used as the basis for the dictionary. In the twentieth century dictionaries became yet more inclusive covering slang, technical and regional language not previously admitted.

Dictionaries for different purposes and groups (for example pocket dictionaries and foreign learners' dictionaries) began to appear. With the advent of the computer it became possible to use computer databases as the source of language evidence alongside or instead of examples on file cards and eventually to publish dictionaries electronically on CD-ROM and online.

Related Links:

Is there An Official Committee which regulates the English language?
Do you include words used on the Internet?
Are Lexicographers good spellers?
Are Dictionaries really necessary?
Are dictionaries always in Alphabetical Order?
What is a Dictionary?

What are the Oxford Dictionary?
Are other languages recorded in huge Multi-Volume Dictionaries?
Do Dictionary-Makers ever make mistakes?
What is the chronology of events relevant to the history of the OED?
How can I access Dictionary Online?

How do you decide What To Include in a dictionary?
How do you decide If a New Word should go in an Oxford Dictionary?
Will the Dictionary-Makers put MY NEW WORD into their dictionaries?
How will be a Dictionary In 2050?
How has Computer Technology affected dictionary-making?

How do you know what a word means?
Dictionaries have changed over the years. How?
When will the Third Edition of the OED be published?
What skills and talents does a Lexicographer need?
How will The Revision affect the size of the OED?

Frequently Asked Questions Index

From Dictionaries Have Changed to HOME PAGE

Additional Info