Unveiling the Hidden Stories: Exploring the Secret History of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a household name and a trusted resource for millions of people around the world. It has become the go-to reference for definitions, spellings, and pronunciations of words. However, behind this seemingly ordinary dictionary lies a fascinating and secret history that many are unaware of. In this article, we will delve into the hidden stories that make up the rich tapestry of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The Origins of Merriam-Webster

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary traces its roots back to 1831 when George and Charles Merriam established a small publishing company in Springfield, Massachusetts. They embarked on a mission to create a comprehensive dictionary that would set new standards in the English language. The brothers’ dedication and commitment to excellence laid the foundation for what would become one of the most renowned dictionaries in the world.

The Secret Editing Process

One of the lesser-known aspects of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the rigorous and secretive editing process that each entry undergoes. A team of lexicographers, language experts, and researchers work tirelessly to ensure the accuracy and relevance of the definitions. Every word is thoroughly researched, and multiple drafts are created before the final version is published. This intricate process ensures that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary remains a trusted authority in the English language.

The Inclusion of New Words

The English language is constantly evolving, with new words and phrases entering the lexicon regularly. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary prides itself on staying up to date with these linguistic shifts. However, the selection of new words is not a haphazard process. The editors carefully consider the frequency of usage, cultural significance, and longevity before including a word in the dictionary. This meticulous approach ensures that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary reflects the ever-changing nature of the English language.

The Influence of Historical Events

As much as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary aims to be an objective resource, it is not immune to the influence of historical events. Throughout its history, the dictionary has been shaped by important social and political movements. For example, during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded its coverage of words related to racial equality and social justice. These subtle but significant changes reflect the dictionary’s commitment to reflecting the realities and values of the times.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

In recent years, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has embraced the digital age with the launch of its online platform. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary offers instant access to millions of definitions, synonyms, and antonyms. The online version also includes audio pronunciations, word games, and a thesaurus. This digital expansion has made the dictionary even more accessible and user-friendly, catering to the needs of a tech-savvy generation.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary currently contains over 470,000 entries. This extensive collection covers a wide range of words, including commonly used terms, technical jargon, and archaic language.

2. Is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary updated regularly?

Yes, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is updated on a regular basis. New editions are released every few years to incorporate new words, remove obsolete terms, and refine existing definitions.

3. Can anyone suggest a new word to be included in the dictionary?

Yes, anyone can submit a suggestion for a new word to be considered for inclusion in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. However, the word must meet certain criteria, such as widespread usage and cultural significance, before it can be accepted.

4. How accurate are the pronunciations in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary employs a team of skilled linguists who ensure the accuracy of the pronunciations. Audio recordings are made by professional speakers, providing users with reliable and consistent pronunciations for each word.

5. Are there regional differences in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary?

While the Merriam-Webster Dictionary aims to be inclusive, it does reflect some regional variations in the English language. Certain words or pronunciations may be labeled as regional or specific to a particular dialect.


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has a rich and secret history that goes beyond its role as a simple reference book. Its origins, editing process, inclusion of new words, and influence of historical events all contribute to its status as a trusted authority in the English language. With the advent of the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, this resource has become even more accessible and indispensable for language enthusiasts worldwide.