Webster's Dictionary

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This is a bibliography page, concerning a work to which reference is made elsewhere in this guide.


A Warning Note:

  • Webster's Dictionary was subject to so much piracy and unauthorized copying (for example an early British edition catalogued in the British Library
Webster, Noah, LL.D. (1932) A Dictionary of the English language ... New York, 1828 ... Reprinted by E. H. Barker ... from a copy communicated by the author, and containing many manuscript ... additions, 2 vols., London, Black & Co.) that the US courts have ruled that "Webster's" is now a general word meaning 'dictionary'. This makes it hard for students to know whether a dictionary with the word "Webster's" in its title is to be trusted - though OED says s.v. Webster, n.2 that it is "[u]sed absol[utely] to designate Webster's Dictionary (first published in 1828), and any of its later revisions and abridgements (now published by G. and C. Merriam Co., Springfield, Mass.)". George and Charles Merriam bought the rights to Noah Webster's work when he died in 1843, and there has been a continuous line of development under their auspices since that time. Webster's may be a generic term in the US for 'dictionary': British students are advised to avoid this usage.

As a rule of thumb, Merriam-Webster, now "an Encyclopædia Britannica Company", should be treated as the most reliable 'brand' of dictionaries under the name of 'Webster'. The on-line version may be conveniently accessed at [[1]]

Biographical Note:

Noah Webster (1758-1843) was an American patriot who came to maturity during the War of Independence. He wanted to ensure that the new Republic had her own language as well as her own government, and having published the Grammatical Institute, of the English Language (1783), later published in parts as the American Spelling Book, the American Grammar and the American Reader (more fully American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking), he turned to lexicography, publishing a Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806. This was replaced by the great work, fruit of many years of labour, with which his name will always be linked.

Bibliographical detail:

Webster, Noah (1828) An American dictionary of the English language: intended to exhibit, I. The origin, affinities and primary signification of English words as far as they have been ascertained, II. The genuine orthography and pronunciation of words, according to general usage or to just principles of analogy, III. Accurate and discriminating definitions, with numerous authorities and illustrations : to which is prefixed, an introductory dissertation on the origin, history, and connection of the languages of western Asia and of Europe, and a concise grammar of the English language (2 vols, 4to), New York: S. Converse (New Haven: Hezekiah Howe).
Webster, Noah (1840) American Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd edition
Webster, Noah and Webster, William G. (1841) American Dictionary of the English Language (Revised Edition; 2 vols 8vo), New Haven, Webster (printed B.L. Hamlen)
  • The Merriam-Webster family of dictionaries include:
  • (1847) American Dictionary of the English Language (new revised edition)
  • Porter, Noah (ed) (1890) Webster's International Dictionary
  • Harris, William Torey and Allen, F. Sturges (eds) (1909) Webster's New International Dictionary
  • Neilson, William Allen and Knott, Thomas A. (eds) (1934) Webster's New International dictionary (2nd edition)
  • Gove, Philip Babcock (ed) (1961) Webster's New International dictionary (3rd edition). This is "still the most recent unabridged dictionary from Merriam-Webster" (Lynch, 2009), and consequently the best description of the American version of English - although some teachers, and lawyers, continue to prefer the more prescriptive 2nd edition as laying down more clearly how words should be used, rather than how they are used.
    • The one-volume Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, currently (2011) in its 11th edition (2003). This was first published in 1898, aimed particularly at undergraduate students, but it has become established as a handy 'desk dictionary' for writers everywhere who use American English.
On-line versions are available at