Talk:Webster's Dictionary

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Discussions before July 1, 2006 have been archived at Talk:Webster's Dictionary/Archive1.

Citations and support[edit]

I have just added quite a few 'fact' and 'verify' tags to this article. I could see nothing in the Talk archive relating to the issue of support for the statements made in this article, so assume it has either not been addressed thus far, or else is a new issue after new additions to the article.

Some of the tags I have added are simply requests for proper referencing of quotations or facts. The section on 'Criticisms' of the dictionary is one such area: although many quotes are given from contemporary critics (mostly newspaper editors), there is no proper citation for the quotes, simply Joe Blogs says, "...". This is the simpler use of the 'fact' tag.

However in many more cases statements are made which could well be true but which, without some sort of supporting evidence, are potentially questionable and POV. Many claims are made about which dictionary is 'more popular', which is 'a better scholarly work', and other comments along those lines. If some citation can be supplied to support these statements, then it would be great if they could be included where relevent (I've added tags for comments like this that I have seen). Without citations, this article seems very POV to me, almost like a defence of the 'true' Webster's. I can't NPOV the article myself because these comments are woven throughout the whole structure of the article. If these statements are in fact true, then it isn't POV, but citations are needed to show this. I'm hoping the original authors of this article or some experts can help out with these citations - it's a large task, larger if you don't know the source of the comments as I don't. I'm happy to help include the citations if someone can help me locate them. CastorQuinn 04:31, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

JA: Chances are that many of the statements come from the references listed, but that the editors did not think to give page numbers, as this kind of laxness is very common in WP. Jon Awbrey 04:38, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

I think that's probably true. I'm going to go through and include as many citations as I can when I have the time to read through all the reference materials. CastorQuinn 05:00, 6 August 2006 (UTC)
Is it really necessary to cite page numbers for every item taken from the books in the refernce list? I agree that most of these items are found in those references. I see no need to clutter the article like this. There would have to be multitudes of citations to cover the statements in this article. Abstrator 08:11, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Merriam "innovation"?[edit]

Under Revisions and updates: The Collegiate Dictionary, the sentence "The most notable change was the Merriam innovation of including the date of the first known citation of each word, to document its entry into the English language" is problematic. If M-W, rather than OED, were the innovators of listing first known citation, I'd be flabbergasted. At any rate, OED listed them well before the the ninth ed. of M-W Collegiate. Rivertorch 07:02, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

A good point. It should probably be qualified that M-W Collegiate was the first commercial or mass market dictionary to do this. Abstrator 08:11, 28 November 2006 UTC)
Indeed. Elsewhere in the article, W3 is described as an "unprecedented masterwork of scholarship", which is utter tosh -- there were far greater works of scholarship that predate it, such as the 1928 edition of the OED which not only precedes W3 by more than 3 decades but was also a significantly greater masterwork of scholarship. The yanky mosquitos are floating on their backs down the river with an erection shouting "raise the bridge", methinks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:25, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Other Webster's references[edit]

Today at the dollar store, alongside a Webster's English Dictionary (a trade paperback by a no-name publisher), I saw a Webster's English-French Dictionary and a Webster's English Thesaurus. How long will it be before dollar stores start selling Webster's Encyclopedias? NeonMerlin 03:12, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm not surprised because, as the article points out, "Webster's" doesn't really mean anything anymore; any publishing house can whip out an el-cheapo dictionary--or, yes, even an encyclopedia--and slap "Webster's" on the cover to increase sales. (That's why Merriam-Webster eventually changed the name of all its dictionaries to "Merriam-Webster's"; though "Webster's" alone is still commonly used with the Third New International which long predated the change, in the latest printings even that one is now Merriam-Webster's Third New International). And when you're talking minor and/or outdated editions, even Merriam-Webster dictionaries could end up in the dollar-store bins.
The only reasons an article belongs here by this title are (a) the name "Webster's" is still commonly associated with dictionaries by the general public in the U.S. (even though it's really meaningless), and (b) the earliest editors of this article chose to put the Merriam-Webster dictionaries in this article rather than in separate articles. (It might be a good idea to move the Merriam-Websters to separate articles, much like the respected non-Merriam "Webster's" dictionaries listed at the end.) --RBBrittain 16:30, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

CD versions[edit]

I think there should be a mention of the CD versions of these dictionaries (and the inclusion in CD encyclopedias, like the Britannica). That would be most helpful, and would complement the "online" references.

There is. I believe it comes with the purchase of the Unabridged. Alphabetagamma 22:00, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

Misplaced paragraph[edit]

The section on the Second International ed ends with the para

"For example, in the case of Miller Brewing Co. v. G. Heileman Brewing Co., Inc., 561 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1977), a trademark dispute in which the terms "lite" and "light" were held to be generic for light beer and therefore available for use by anyone, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, after considering a definition offered by one of the parties from the Third Edition of the New International, wrote "[t]he comparable ..."

A citation by the judge of the 3rd Ed is not an example of what happens in the 2nd! I recommend the writer to rethink the actual use of exemplification and rephrase this: it is clear what is meant, and I don't want to crash through someone else's prose. MacAuslan 17:39, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

The quote from the opinion (which you mostly left out) explains why that paragraph belongs in the Second Edition section. That court appeared to prefer the Second Edition over the Third Edition--a full 16 years after the Third Edition was published.
Though that may be a commentary on the Third Edition and its controversial changes, it really doesn't belong in the Third Edition section because it tends to further denigrate the Third Edition's approach, which some now believe was the right one in light of the numerous changes in American English over the years. (In fact, I personally think a Fourth Edition is way past due.)
Ultimately, that quote stands for the fact that many people preferred the Second Edition for many, many years after the Third Edition's publication. (That happened to be true with my own parents as well.) That is why it belongs in the Second Edition section. --RBBrittain 16:08, 15 September 2007 (UTC)


In the intro paragraph this claim is made, "The entire dictionary was written fully by Charles John Webster in one night, in between band practises for his uber- popular rock band Supremo Gophero." As this seems unlikely, is there a citation available? 19:55, 26 March 2007 (UTC)Anonymous

public domain[edit]

Is public domain the correct term for a trademark? I thought public domain was a term for copyright. --Gbleem 18:14, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

noah also had an ark. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:05, 14 July 2008 (UTC)

Why was Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff banned at one time on the U.S[edit]

I got the information from here if you scroll down to Books Banned at One Time or Another in the United States you'll find that the second to last is the Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff, I'm just wondering how veritable that information is —Preceding unsigned comment added by Angry Mushi (talkcontribs) 01:52, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

Verifiable, you mean? A quick Google search suggests that the volume in question is on several lists of banned books. The Web page you point to misspells "Huckleberry" (as in Finn), which suggests to me that it would be preferable to find a different source to cite if this were added to the article. Rivertorch (talk) 06:45, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
My guess is that they added something new that went against the grain of 'proper' english. There have been more than a few battles lately, and it seems like a outright secret what the english language is based on :/ -TR —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:39, 28 September 2008 (UTC)
I'm almost sure that the Seventh Collegiate did not contain taboo words. Am not sure about the Eighth, but am fairly sure that the Ninth did include most of your most basic taboo words in American English. (The Third unabridged edition of 1962 had also included some of them.)
Surely that alone would suffice to get the Ninth (and succeeding editions) banned in certain parts of the U.S.Daqu (talk) 08:31, 18 October 2009 (UTC)
 Here are four relevant citations, all involving attribution to AP:
  1. The Web of Language,
    Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news, in a "Jan 25, 2010 8:00 pm" entry, among other matters of interest, displays as an image
    the headline "School bans dictionary" and
    a horizontal rule followed by
    the byline "Associated Press" and
    this running text:
    CARLSBAD, N.M. Carlsbad school officials have replaced copies of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary with older dictionaries in the 6th through 12th grades because the latest edition contains obscene words.
    then writing "The above clip appeared on p. 1 of the Wilmington, North Carolina, Morning Star on Sept. 30, 1982." and offering commentary of his own on the "ban".
  2. "Definitions Right, Obscene Words Wrong", Lakeland Ledger - Sep 29, 1982, Page 39 of 73 (about 300 words, including denial that dictionaries were burned)
  3. "School Bans Dictionary", Star-News - Sep 30, 1982, about 250 words including
    The president of the company that publishes Webster dictionaries agreed Tuesday that the collegiate edition is not the proper edition to keep in secondary public schools.
  4. The San Bernardino County Sun of San Bernardino, California, Thursday, September 30, 1982, at page 15 displays a thumbnail of the page, including two articles, each the equivalent of 3 columns of about 18 lines, which are unreadable without free registration; however, Google displays the following presumed OCR re the Web page: "Sep 30, 1982 - Carlsbad School Board President Pat Nelson said Tuesday, 'I really think ... Collegiate Dictionary with older dictionaries in the 6th through 12th ...", in which the ellipsis is part of what Google provided.
 (I surmise that AP provides, for each of its stories, all its subscribing papers with the same copy, and the papers are likely to write their own headline and select and/or reword the body text.)
--Jerzyt 08:23, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Wide recognition in Great Britain and its colonies[edit]

This is quoted from an old reference. Surely it matters that it is wrong? In Austrlia, New Zealand and the UK not only is this dictionary not a recognised authority it is almost unknown. In these countries the main, and really only reference, is the OED. I very strongly suggest that unless an up-to-date reference from a recognised athority is found to support such a major claim (which I tender will not) then it be removed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:39, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

My fingers are hovering over the delete button so jump in if you have a proper reference to the dubious claim - thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:21, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Wether the rationale is correct or not is irrelevant, it is still the logic they used for the title change. This info can be found in various sources with a quick google search for "W. T. Harris" +Merriam. Such as this book, albeit from 1910 as well. Perhaps the more loosely worded "..for the work in it's latest form has come to have world-wide acceptance as an authority on the uses of the English language" (from page 730 of this book) is more palatable? Also, just because it is not currently recognized authority, does not mean it was not during the timeframe this was happening. (talk) 01:51, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Problem with logical organization of this article[edit]

The problem is that this article contains maybe 60%-70% of what an article on the subject of "U.S. dictionaries" ought to contain.

One the one hand this article contains far more than its title would indicate: It is about much more than "Webster's"; rather it is almost a puff piece for Merriam-Webster. (Though I will be among the first to say this article is very, very well written and researched, for what it is.)

On the other hand it omits much information about *other* "Webster's" dictionaries . . . and because of its title, about any non-"Webster's" dictionary like Funk and Wagnalls.

Here's what I suggest (but I wouldn't expect it to happen without a huge amount of needless angst on this Talk page):

Most of this article -- the part that focuses on the history of American dictionaries and how their content differs -- should be expanded to include much substantive information about other major American dictionaries and what they contain. At minimum this should include -- besides Merriam-Webster dictionaries -- the New World, the American Heritage, Encarta, Funk and Wagnalls, Random House, and the New Oxford American. (I know this article gives a brief nod to many of these, but I'm talking about more than a brief nod.)

On the other hand, the article titled "Webster's Dictionary" should address merely the history of the trade mark "Webster's" and link to the other article for substantive info about U.S. dictionaries.

OR . . . the substantive article I'm proposing could be more ambitious and include history and content information about all major dictionaries of the English language. But the title of the present article -- by its limiting nature -- should be reserved for the history of how this trade mark has been used.Daqu (talk) 08:59, 18 October 2009 (UTC)

I think a good approach would be to focus on the period when the trademark was valid focusing on the actual series of dictionaries, and then briefly describe the history of the trademark since then. There should be a separate article on the line of Merriam-Webster dictionaries. And I'm not sure there should be an article just on American dictionaries; it seems like that would make sense as a section of the article on dictionaries. That would encourage parallel treatment of the dictionaries of both countries.
I actually think it's fair for Merriam-Webster to get the most coverage in a historical survey. They don't now hold the dominant position that they used to, but their Second New International Dictionary had a special place in the US in the middle of the century, as evidenced by the size of the controversy when the 3rd New International came out. Mark Foskey (talk) 04:34, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

Collegiate Dictionary[edit]

I have to use this dictionary to check US usage. On p. 13a, in the section marked Inflected Forms, it is clear that the writer believes that 'inflected' has the same meaning as 'derivational': the intransitive verb 'gourmandize', according to the writer, is an 'inflected' form of 'gourmand'. Nonsense of this sort should simply not be in a book intended as a reference work for students. Pamour (talk) 13:13, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

   Really! You seem to believe the vocabulary of technical grammatical terms you learned (while, you testify, remaining ignorant of American usage, in general and i should presume as to grammatical terminology as well) must be identical to what you are familiar with. For my part, the definitions of "inflect" and "inflection", in their several grammar-relevant senses in my (copyright '81 and still the 1st Edn.) American Heritage Dictionary suggest ambiguity and flexibility:
   inflect: "To alter (a word) as by conjugating or declining" [emphasis added]
   inflection: "An alteration of the form of a word to indicate different grammatical and syntactic relations, such as ..." [ditto]
   Hybridize, galvanize, sanfordize, anglicize ... well, they're all made into verbs, a change fraught with changes in "grammatical and syntactic relations". I'll leave it to others to count how many of the 5 senses and 8 sub-senses listed at -ize can arguably account for the transitions among linguistic roles between gourmand to gourmandize.
   But actually, i think the bottom line for me is that you're saying you, who seem fancy yourself a linguist, don't know any word more restricted than "derivational" whose scope is broader than what conjugation and declension have in common. Is this as simple as -ize being suffixable to more than one part of speech?
--Jerzyt 10:04, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

disclaimers on non-webster dictionaries[edit]


In the past I've seen non-Webster dictionaries that state that their volume isn't published by the current publishers of the Webster dictionary. Should this be noted in the article? - Thanks, Hoshie 07:55, 14 January 2013 (UTC)

Emily Dickinson's 1844 Dictionary[edit]

Do we know for sure that she used and wrote about a copy of the unabridged, that supposedly had the date 1844 on the title page? I have never come across such an item. I've seen several 1844 Webster's, and they were always the one that was abridged by Worcester and printed in NYC by Harper, but the title of the book is "Webster's ADEL" and the author was listed as Noah Webster. Nothing about the book looks like it was anything but a genuine Webster. It had all the words of the 1840 unabridged, and all of Webster's original definitions, word for word. The only thing "abridged" about it was that Worcester removed all the literary quotes. It's a smaller book, an octavo rather than quarto, and the type was smaller so I'm thinking the price was low enough for Emily to easily buy one. Many copies were sold, judging by how many we still see in the marketplace for used books, so I'm thinking it's the one she used. I have never seen an unabridged Springfield printing dated 1844, so I doubt she used this, if it even existed. She used the Worcester "Webster" of 1844. Take my unabridged word for it. DigbyDalton (talk) 17:36, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

I answered my own question, I found a copy online:


Sorry to bother you. DigbyDalton (talk) 14:11, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

Sections: 1913 edition, 1961 edition, and Latest editions[edit]

Some information in these sections is erroneous. The 1961 edition is the Third New International, not the Collegiate. It is the current edition of the Collegiate which is covered by OneLook. The digital Third NI is not available free online. I have edited the three sections to correct these errors and distribute the facts appropriately. Xerlome (talk) 16:32, 30 January 2015 (UTC)


I removed the sentence claiming that the Century Dictionary was based on Webster's 1841. This is misleading. John Ogilve used the 1841 as a base for the 1850s Imperial Dictionary, and by Annandale's 1882 2nd edition, Webster's 70,000 vocabulary was nearly doubled. The Century Dictionary used the later Imperial as its basis, but it vastly increased the vocabulary (to over 500,000 entries, don't know how many words that would be). Hardly "based". All this needs to be clear for accuracy. I may get around to writing about it sometime if no one else does it first. Xerlome (talk) 21:50, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Sectional structure[edit]

   The relationship among sections is chaotic: not as chronological as it could be without adding confusion, and splitting Merriam Webster in a way that defies logic. I may leave a lot of section-structure improvement undone, but i'm at least repairing to the degree that the way seems clear.
--Jerzyt 10:58, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

   I still haven't forgotten, tho i'm not moving at a reasonable pace. On the other hand, i don't see the deadline looming.
--Jerzyt 19:59, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
   Perhaps as a symptom of a malady related to the already mentioned one, discussion of Joseph Emerson Worcester's Dict Wars is split among "2 "Webster's" dictionaries by others", "2.3 Unabridged edition 1864" and "6 Competition". Surely readers will be better served by reducing the length of each of the Worcester mentions in the accompanying article and adding the removed wording to an account, more integrated than can be given within this topic, within our Worcester bio, and linking into that article 3 (or perhaps only 2) times from the accompanying article.
--Jerzyt 21:08, 20 April 2015 (UTC)

Here's what i found:[edit]

  • 1 Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language
    • 1.1 ADEL first edition 1828
    • 1.2 ADEL second edition 1841
      • 1.2.1 1841 printing
      • 1.2.2 1844 printing
      • 1.2.3 1845 printing
    • 1.3 Impact
  • 2 "Webster's" dictionaries by others
    • 2.1 New and Revised Edition 1847
    • 2.2 British impact
    • 2.3 Unabridged edition 1864
    • 2.4 Webster's International Dictionary (1890 and 1900)
    • 2.5 Webster's New International Dictionary 1909
    • 2.6 Webster’s New International Dictionary (second edition, 1934)
  • 3 Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961)
    • 3.1 Deletions
    • 3.2 Reception and criticisms
      • 3.2.1 Permissiveness
      • 3.2.2 Ain't
    • 3.3 Revisions and updates
  • 4 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
  • 5 The name Webster used by others
  • 6 Competition
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading
  • 9 External links
    • 9.1 1828 edition
    • 9.2 1841 (1844) edition
    • 9.3 1913 edition
    • 9.4 Collegiate Dictionary
    • 9.5 Latest Unabridged

--Jerzyt 10:58, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Here's a first cut at reorganizing[edit]

  1. *1 Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language
    1. *1.1 ADEL first edition 1828
    2. **1.2 ADEL second edition 1841
      1. ***1.2.1 1841 printing
      2. ***1.2.2 1844 printing
      3. ***1.2.3 1845 printing
    3. **1.3 Impact
    *2 "Webster's" dictionaries by others
    1. **2.1 New and Revised Edition 1847
      • **2.2 British impact (move near end of article)
  2. Merriams & their successors
    1. **2.3 Unabridged edition 1864
    2. **2.4 Webster's International Dictionary (1890 and 1900)
    3. **2.5 Webster's New International Dictionary 1909
    4. **2.6 Webster’s New International Dictionary (second edition, 1934)
    5. *3 Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961)
      1. **3.1 Deletions
      2. **3.2 Reception and criticisms
        1. ***3.2.1 Permissiveness
        2. ***3.2.2 Ain't
      3. **3.3 Revisions and updates
    6. *4 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
  • 5 The name Webster used by others
  • 6 Competition
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading
  • 9 External links
    • 9.1 1828 edition
    • 9.2 1841 (1844) edition
    • 9.3 1913 edition
    • 9.4 Collegiate Dictionary
    • 9.5 Latest Unabridged

--Jerzyt 10:58, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

Bald-faced attempt to take back the trademark "Webster's" by Merriam-Webster[edit]

This article — if it is going to emphasize Noah Webster and the dictionaries in direct lineage — should redirect to the article on Noah Webster or Merriam-Webster.

But because the subject of this article is not Noah Webster and is not Merriam-Webster, it is wrong for it to pretend that the phrase "Webster's Dictionary" continues to refer to Merriam-Webster products: This has been untrue for a very long time.

For example, this is the first sentence of the entire article; it contains a bald-faced lie:

"The name Webster's Dictionary may refer to any of the line of dictionaries first developed by Noah Webster in the early nineteenth century and numerous unrelated dictionaries that adopted Webster's name just to share his prestige."

It is a lie because it excludes many dictionaries that don't want or need to "share [Noah Webster's] prestige" — but which are superb dictionaries in their own right. The tradmark "Webster's" entered the public domain in 1908 — over a hundred years ago — so it is ridiculous for this article to take the P.O.V. that dictionaries using the name Webster's are usurpers trying to profit off the prestige of Noah Webster. It is not only ridiculous, but it appears to be an attempt by Merriam—Webster to rewrite history, to take back the trademark that it lost.

If so, this would be a very silly thing to do: the trademark of "Merriam-Webster" is widely admired, and Merriam-Webster dictionaries are often said to be the leading dictionaries in the United States. And think of how embarrassed Merriam-Webster would be if, say, a leading newspaper ran a story about how Wikipedia was being hijacked to increase profits.Daqu (talk) 17:15, 15 February 2017 (UTC)

broken link to non-existent section[edit]

There is a link in

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language#History

to non-existent section: Webster's Dictionary#Reception and criticisms Fholson 23:30, 10 May 2017 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Fholson (talkcontribs)

@Fholson: Done. Please, read Help:Link, Wikipedia:Signatures.--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 18:01, 11 May 2017 (UTC)


"The only modern dictionaries that trace their lineage to Noah Webster's are published by Merriam-Webster." What is the basis for this claim, and for the remark about Random House? ("In recent years, even established dictionaries with no direct link to Noah Webster whatsoever have adopted his name, adding to the confusion. Random House dictionaries are now called Random House Webster's".) It doesn't take much research to find that Random House's dictionary is an adaptation of Century Dictionary, which was based on the Imperial Dictionary, which was an expansion of Webster's Dictionary. That is lineage, is it not? I have no idea how much of Webster's original is still visible in RH today after all the adaptation, expansion, editing and rewriting; then again I also have no idea how much of Webster's work is visible in M-W today; others may know. But it would appear to be a clear line of descent, and even if a lot has changed, the lineage is still there, in the same way that a prince today might trace his lineage to an emperor of a thousand years ago, despite the bloodline having been diluted through numerous marriages, or in the some way, linguistically, that we say that English derives from Germanic and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European, even though if you saw a text in reconstructed Germanic it would bear little resemblance to an English one. 13:52, 9 September 2017 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)