Behind the Pages: Discovering the Untold Tales of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


When it comes to dictionaries, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a household name. It has been a trusted resource for word definitions and meanings for over 180 years. But have you ever wondered about the stories behind the pages of this iconic dictionary? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history, evolution, and lesser-known facts about the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The History of Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century. It all started when Noah Webster, an American lexicographer, published his first dictionary in 1806. His dictionary aimed to standardize American English spellings and promote linguistic independence from British English.

In 1843, brothers George and Charles Merriam acquired the rights to Webster’s dictionary. They made significant updates to the content and published the first Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 1847. Since then, the dictionary has undergone numerous revisions and editions to keep up with the ever-evolving English language.

The Evolution of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Over the years, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has evolved to meet the changing needs of its users. One notable milestone was the introduction of the Collegiate Dictionary in 1898, which included words and definitions commonly found in academic settings.

In the digital age, Merriam-Webster embraced technology and launched its first online dictionary in 1996. This allowed users to access word definitions and meanings with just a few clicks. Today, the dictionary is available as a mobile app, making it even more accessible to users on the go.

Behind the Scenes: How Words Make It Into the Dictionary

Have you ever wondered how words make it into the dictionary? The process of adding new words to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary involves extensive research and analysis. The editors at Merriam-Webster closely monitor the English language for new words, phrases, and shifts in word usage.

When a word gains enough evidence of consistent usage across a variety of sources, it is considered for inclusion in the dictionary. The editors review the word’s history, meaning, and popularity before making a final decision. This meticulous process ensures that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary remains a reliable resource for accurate and up-to-date word definitions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How many words are in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary?

The current edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary contains over 470,000 entries, including words, phrases, and definitions.

2. Can anyone suggest a new word to be added to the dictionary?

Absolutely! Merriam-Webster encourages users to submit new words for consideration through their website. However, the word must meet certain criteria, such as widespread, meaningful usage, before it can be added to the dictionary.

3. How often is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary updated?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is updated on an ongoing basis. New words and revisions are added regularly to reflect changes in the English language.

4. Are all the words in the dictionary still in common usage?

No, the dictionary includes archaic and obsolete words along with current vocabulary. This allows readers to explore the rich history of the English language.

5. Is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary available in languages other than English?

While the Merriam-Webster Dictionary primarily focuses on the English language, it also offers bilingual dictionaries for Spanish, French, German, Italian, and other languages.


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has stood the test of time and continues to be a trusted resource for word definitions and meanings. Its journey from Noah Webster’s initial publication to the digital age is a testament to its commitment to providing accurate and up-to-date language information. So, the next time you pick up a dictionary, remember the untold tales hidden behind its pages.