Whilst writing Note 215 – A little bit of history about British and American English the other day, I came across the name Noah Webster and the company name G&C Merriam Company and realised that there must be some connection so I’ve been researching over the last few days. The history of how Merriam-Webster was formed is quite interesting – here are some facts below mainly cited in Wikipedia, but I have also found a few facts elsewhere:
- Noah Webster was an American educator, writer and editor amongst other things, and was also known as “Father of American Scholarship and Education”. His blue-backed speller books were used in schools for generations.
- G&C Merriam Company (an American company) publishes dictionaries and other reference books.
- In 1806, Noah Webster’s first dictionary A Compendous Dictionary of English Language was published.
- In 1807, he started writing a full English dictionary – which was to be known as An American Dictionary of the English Language. After spending 20 year evaluating and studying words and learning 26 languages, the dictionary containing 70,000 words was published in 1928.
- Noah Webster made many changes to words when he created his dictionaries, to make things less confusing, for example, he changed colour to color and added words that don’t appear in English dictionaries e.g. ‘skunk’.
- In 1843, Noah Webster died at the age of 84. In that same year “George and Charles Merriam secured publishing and revision rights to the 1840 edition of the dictionary” according to Wikipedia.
- In a version of the dictionary that G&C Merriam Company published in 1864, they changed quite a bit of Webster’s text, although many definitions remained.
- In 1982, G&C Merriam & Co. lost its rights to using the name Webster exclusively, so Merriam-Webster was formed.
- There are more modern dictionaries that go by the name of ‘Webster dictionaries’, but according to A-Z Dictionaries.com, only “Merriam-Webster products are backed by 150 years of accumulated knowledge and experience” as they have been publishing since 1831.
- In 1996, the Merriam-Webster website was launched which most of us know as the free dictionary and thesaurus.
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