Unlocking the Secrets: Delving into the Enigmatic Origins of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a renowned and widely-used resource that many people rely on for clarifying the meanings and pronunciations of words. It is considered one of the most reliable and authoritative dictionaries in the English language. However, have you ever wondered about the fascinating history and origins behind this celebrated reference? In this article, we will explore the enigmatic beginnings of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, uncovering the secrets that lie within its pages.

The Birth of Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The story of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary begins in 1806 when Noah Webster, an American lexicographer and language reformer, published his first dictionary known as “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.” Webster’s dictionary aimed to standardize American English by introducing spelling reforms and documenting uniquely American words. His work gained recognition and popularity, setting the foundation for the Merriam-Webster Dictionary we know today.

The Merriam Brothers Enter the Picture

In 1843, brothers George and Charles Merriam purchased the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary. They were passionate about continuing Webster’s work and expanding upon it. The Merriam brothers believed that dictionaries should be accessible to all, not just scholars, and they started working on a revised and improved version of Webster’s dictionary.

The First Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In 1847, the Merriam brothers published their first dictionary, titled “An American Dictionary of the English Language.” This edition was met with great success, as it included more words, definitions, and examples than any previous dictionary. It quickly became a go-to resource for many language enthusiasts and scholars.

Continual Revisions and Expansions

Since the publication of the first Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the dictionary has undergone countless revisions and expansions. The Merriam brothers’ commitment to updating the dictionary to reflect the evolving English language was continued by subsequent generations of lexicographers. New words, definitions, and pronunciations were added to keep up with the ever-changing lexicon.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

In the digital age, Merriam-Webster embraced the internet and launched the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary in 1996. This online version revolutionized access to the dictionary, making it available to anyone with an internet connection. Alongside the traditional print edition, the online dictionary allows users to search for words, find their meanings, and listen to pronunciations.

FAQs about the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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 idioms.

2. How often is the dictionary updated?

The dictionary is regularly updated to include new words and reflect changes in the English language. Merriam-Webster’s team of lexicographers continuously monitors and analyzes language usage to ensure the dictionary remains accurate and relevant.

3. How are new words added to the dictionary?

New words are added to the dictionary based on their frequency of usage and widespread acceptance. Merriam-Webster’s lexicographers track word usage in various sources, including literature, newspapers, and online publications, before considering them for inclusion.

4. Are there regional differences in the dictionary?

Yes, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary recognizes regional variations in word usage. It acknowledges words and meanings that may be specific to certain regions, reflecting the diversity of the English language.

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

Yes, Merriam-Webster welcomes suggestions for new words. They have an online submission form where users can propose word additions along with evidence of their usage and acceptance.


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has a rich and fascinating history that spans over two centuries. From its humble beginnings with Noah Webster to the digital age of the online dictionary, it has continuously evolved to meet the needs of language enthusiasts and learners. The dictionary’s commitment to accuracy, relevance, and accessibility has solidified its position as a trusted resource for understanding the English language. So, the next time you look up a word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, remember the remarkable journey it has taken to unlock the secrets of language.