National Dictionary Day on October 16th annually commemorates the birthday of Noah Webster.
In 1806, American Noah Webster published his first dictionary, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. In 1807 Webster began compiling an expanded and fully comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language; it took twenty-seven years to complete. To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-six languages, including Old English (Anglo-Saxon), German, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit.
Webster completed his dictionary during his year abroad in Paris, France, at the University of Cambridge. His book contained seventy thousand words, of which twelve thousand had never appeared in a published dictionary before.
As a spelling reformer, he believed that the English spelling rules were unnecessarily complicated, so in his dictionary, he introduced American English spellings. For example, Webster replaced “colour” with “color,” “waggon” with “wagon,” and “center” instead of “centre.” Webster also added American words such as “skunk” and “squash” that did not appear in British dictionaries. He believed the United States “should be as independent in literature as she is in politics.” Some of his changes didn’t catch on, however. Dropping the silent “e” at the end of some words like in the word imagine.
Webster took a more phonetic approach to the development of his dictionary. Interestingly, the word didn’t appear when Webster published his dictionary in 1828 at the age of seventy. However, of the 70,000 entries, the word phonics is one. The dictionary sold 2500 copies. In 1840, the second edition published in two volumes. Additionally, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is available online. By entering the modern-day spelling, the website generates Webster’s 1828 version.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalDictionaryDay
Celebrate by learning a new word or two! Play a fun dictionary-based game, like Balderdash or Scrabble. While you celebrate, use #NationalDictionaryDay to post on social media.
Educators, visit the National Day Calendar Classroom for project ideas, puzzles, and more. There are even a couple for this word related national day!
NATIONAL DICTIONARY DAY HISTORY
National Dictionary Day was created in honor of Noah Webster’s birthday (October 16, 1758). The observance emphasizes the importance of learning while using dictionary skills and increasing one’s vocabulary. Webster is considered the Father of the American Dictionary.
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