Top 10 facts about dictionaries

  • Johnson’s dictionary was not the first such work but was the first to try to include all English words with definitions and examples.

  • It was the leading dictionary until the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) appeared 173 years later.

  • Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall of 1604, which is often seen as the first English dictionary, had no words beginning with J, K, U, W, X or Y...

  • ...but J and I were seen as the same letter at that time, as were U and V, so only K, W, X and Y words were really absent.

  • The OED includes definitions for about 600,000 words.

  • A major contributor of quotations to the OED was William Chester Minor, a former US Army surgeon who was held in Broadmoor lunatic asylum after killing a man.

  • "Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge..." (Johnson's Dictionary).

  • Until recently, the word with most definitions in the OED was 'set' but the current winner is 'run'.

  • Johnson though his dictionary would take three years to complete. Actually it took nine.

  • The OED was estimated to take 10 years but it took 70.

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