Did You Know: Dictionary Day (Oct. 16)

As a spelling reformer, Noah Webster believed that the English spelling rules were unnecessarily complicated, so in his dictionary, he introduced American English spellings.

—Unsplash photo/Joshua Hoehne

National Dictionary Day was created in honor of Noah Webster’s birthday (Oct. 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.

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 27 years to complete. To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned 26 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 70,000 words, of which 12,0000 had never appeared in a published dictionary before.

As a spelling reformer, Webster b elieved that the English spelling rules were unnecessarily complicated, so in his dictionary, he introduced American English spellings. For example, he 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.”

—Tribune research

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