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October 16, 2016

Dictionary Day 2016

by Donna Huber

English: Handwritten drafts of dictionary entr...
English: Handwritten drafts of dictionary entries written by Noah Webster. From the Webster Family Papers, Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, October 16, is Dictionary Day. More specifically though it is the birthday of Noah Webster, who most consider to be the father of the American Dictionary.

I love dictionaries because I love words. Growing up every household had at least one dictionary and I remember students who were English majors at my university were required to have a Webster Dictionary (though technically it might have been a Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Was I the only one who went to the dictionary to look up a word and then find themselves reading all the other entries on the page just because they were fascinated by the words? If this was you, then you may enjoy signing up for the Word of the Day from Today's word is LEXICON.

If you are a school teacher Education World has some fun games suggestions you can do with your students to celebrate words.

Who was Noah Webster?

Born into an average colonial family in what is today West Hampton, Connecticut on October 16, 1758, Noah Webster enjoyed a privilege that was rare during his day. He was able to attend college and at the age of 16 graduated from Yale University. He wanted to study law, like many students today, he could not afford an advance education and therefore went into teaching.

Webster saw the need for updating the educational system in the U.S. and wrote the first American textbook, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, in 1783. Nearly 100 million copies were sold and it was used for 100 years to teach students to read, spell, and pronounce words.

By the turn of the century, Americans were pronouncing and using words differently than the English and in 1801 Webster started to work on what would become the first American dictionary. Did you know in Webster's day the words 'skunk' and 'squash' were not in the English (British) dictionary? Americans had also stopped using British spelling for many words, i.e. color instead of colour. Or at least Webster decided they had.

Within 5 years of starting the project, he published Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It contained short definitions for about 37,000 words. It was another 22 years before Webster completed the American Dictionary of the English Language which included definitions for more 65,000 words.

While well-known for his dictionary, Noah Webster also played a role in the establishment of copyright law and universal education. He helped found Amherst College and created his own version of an "American" Bible. He died in 1853. (from Noah Webster History, Noah Webster House & West Hampton Historical Society)

Test Your Vocabulary!

The grammar site created a list of 10 fun words. I've listed the words below, try defining them before heading over to their blog post.


Do you have a favorite word? Share it in the comments!

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