FIRST EDITION IN OCTAVO,
THE WHOLE VOCABULARY OF THE QUARTO, WITH CORRECTIONS, IMPROVEMENTS, AND SEVERAL THOUSAND ADDITIONAL WORDS:
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED
AN INTRODUCTORY DISSERTATION
ORIGIN, HISTORY AND CONNECTION OF THE LANGUAGES OF WESTERN ASIA AND EUROPE,
WITH AN EXPLANATION
OF THE PRINCIPLES ON WHICH LANGUAGES ARE FORMED.
BY NOAH WEBSTER, LL. D.
MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN PHILADELPHIA; FELLOW OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES IN MASSACHUSETTS; MEMBER OF THE CONNECTICUT ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES; FELLOW OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF NORTHERN ANTIQUARIES IN COPENHAGEN; MEMBER OF THE CONNECTICUT HISTORICAL SOCIETY; CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETIES IN MASSACHUSETTS, NEW YORK AND GEORGIA; OF THE ACADEMY OF MEDICINE IN PHILADELPHIA, AND OF THE COLOMBIAN INSTITUTE IN WASHINGTON; AND HONORARY MEMBER OF THE MICHIGAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
GENERAL SUBJECTS OF THIS WORK.
1. ETYMOLOGIES OF ENGLISH WORDS, DEDUCED FROM AN EXAMINATION AND COMPARISON OF WORDS OF CORRESPONDING ELEMENTS IN TWENTY LANGUAGES OF ASIA AND EUROPE.
2. THE TRUE ORTHOGRAPHY OF WORDS, AS CORRECTED BY THEIR ETYMOLOGIES.
3. PRONUNCIATION EXHIBITED AND MADE OBVIOUS BY THE DIVISION OF WORDS INTO SYLLABLES, BY ACCENTUATION, BY MARKING THE SOUNDS OF THE ACCENTED VOWELS, WHEN NECESSARY, OR BY GENERAL RULES.
4. ACCURATE AND DISCRIMINATING DEFINITIONS, ILLUSTRATED, WHEN DOUBTFUL OR OBSCURE, BY EXAMPLES OF THEIR USE, SELECTED FROM RESPECTABLE AUTHORS, OR BY FAMILIAR PHRASES OF UNDISPUTED AUTHORITY.
[THIS EDITION CONTAINS A SUPPLEMENT BY THE AUTHOR, OF SEVERAL THOUSAND WORDS, AND PUBLISHED AFTER HIS DECEASE.]
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PUBLISHED BY J. S. AND C. ADAMS.
SOLD BY LITTLE & BROWN, BOSTON; LEAVITT, TROW & CO., NEW YORK; THOMAS, COWPERTHWAIT & CO.
PHILADELPHIA; BROWN & PARSONS, HARTFORD.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1840,
By NOAH WEBSTER, LL. D.
In the Clerk’s Office in the District Court of Connecticut.
The improvements in this edition of the American Dictionary, consist chiefly in the addition of several thousand words to the vocabulary; the division of words into syllables, and in the correction of definitions in several of the sciences, which are made conformable to recent discoveries and classifications. For the latter improvements, the author is indebted chiefly to Professor Tully of the Medical College in New Haven.
To these improvements may be added the introduction and explanation of many phrases from foreign languages, frequently used by English authors and in conversation; and also of many foreign terms used in books of Music.
For additional words, see the end of the volume.
In the year 1783, just at the close of the Revolution, I published an elementary book for facilitating the acquisition of our vernacular tongue, and for correcting a vicious pronunciation, which prevailed extensively among the common people of this country. Soon after the publication of that work, I believe in the following year, that learned and respectable scholar, the Rev. Dr. Goodrich of Durham, one of the trustees of Yale College, suggested to me the propriety and expediency of my compiling a Dictionary, which should complete a system for the instruction of the citizens of this country in the language. At that time, I could not indulge the thought, much less the hope, of undertaking such a work; as I was neither qualified by research, nor had I the means of support, during the execution of the work, had I been disposed to undertake it. For many years, therefore, though I considered such a work as very desirable, yet it appeared to me impracticable; as I was under the necessity of devoting my time to other occupations for obtaining subsistence.
About thirty-five years ago, I began to think of attempting the compilation of a Dictionary. I was induced to this undertaking, not more by the suggestion of friends, than by my own experience of the want of such a work, while reading modern books of science. In this pursuit, I found almost insuperable difficulties, from the want of a Dictionary, for explaining many new words, which recent discoveries in the physical sciences had introduced into use. To remedy this defect in part, I published my Compendious Dictionary in 1806; and soon after made preparations for undertaking a larger work.
My original design did not extend to an investigation of the origin and progress of our language; much less of other languages. I limited my views to the correcting of certain errors in the best English Dictionaries, and to the supplying of words in which they are deficient. But after writing through two letters of the alphabet, I determined to change my plan. I found myself embarrassed, at every step, for want of a knowledge of the origin of words, which Johnson, Bailey, Junius, Skinner and some other authors do not afford the means of obtaining. Then laying aside my manuscripts, and all books treating of language, except Lexicons and Dictionaries, I endeavored, by a diligent comparison of words, having the same or cognate radical letters, in about twenty languages, to obtain a more correct knowledge of the primary sense of original words, of the affinities between the English and many other languages, and thus to enable myself to trace words to their source.
I had not pursued this course more than three or four years, before I discovered that I had to unlearn a great deal that I had spent years in learning, and that it was necessary for me to go back to the first rudiments of a branch of erudition, which I had before cultivated, as I had supposed, with success.
I spent ten years in this comparison of radical words, and in forming a Synopsis of the principal Words in twenty Languages, arranged in Classes, under their primary Elements or Letters. The result has been to open what are to me new views of language, and to unfold what appear to be the genuine principles on which these languages are constructed.
After completing this Synopsis, I proceeded to correct what I had written of the Dictionary, and to complete the remaining part of the work. But before I had finished it, I determined on a voyage to Europe, with the view of obtaining some books and some assistance which I wanted; of learning the real state of the pronunciation of our language in England, as well as the general state of philology in that country; and of attempting to bring about some agreement or coincidence of opinions, in regard to unsettled points in pronunciation and grammatical construction. In some of these objects I failed; in others, my designs were answered.
It is not only important, but, in a degree necessary, that the people of this country should have an American Dictionary of the English Language; for, although the body of the language is the same as in England, and it is desirable to perpetuate that sameness, yet some differences must exist. Language is the expression of ideas; and if the people of one country can not preserve an identity of ideas, they can not retain an identity of language. Now an identity of ideas depends materially upon a sameness of things or objects, with which the people of the two countries are conversant. But in no two portions of the earth, remote from each other, can such identity be found. Even physical objects must be different. But the principal differences between the people of this country and of all others, arise from different forms of government, different laws, institutions and customs. Thus the practice of hawking and hunting, the institution of heraldry, and the feudal system of England originated terms which formed, and some of which now form, a necessary part of the language of that country; but, in the United States, many of these terms are no part of our present language, — and they can not be, for the things which they express, do not exist in this country. They can be known to us only as obsolete or as foreign words. On the other hand, the institutions in this country which are new and peculiar, give rise to new terms or to new applications of old terms, unknown to the people of England; which can not be explained by them, and which will not be inserted in their Dictionaries, unless copied from ours. Thus the terms, land-office; land-warrant; location of land; consociation of churches; regent of a university; intendant of a city; plantation, selectmen, senate, congress, court, assembly, escheat, &c., are either words not belonging to the language of England, or they are applied to things in this country which do not exist in that. No person in this country will be satisfied with the English definitions of the words congress, senate and assembly, court, &c.; for although these are words used in England, yet they are applied in this country to express ideas which they do not express in that country. With our present constitutions of government, escheat can never have its feudal sense in the United States.
But this is not all. In many cases, the nature of our governments, and of our civil institutions, requires an appropriate language in the definition of words, even when the words express the same thing, as in England. Thus the English Dictionaries inform us that a Justice is one deputed by the King to do right by way of judgment — he is a Lord by his office — Justices of the peace are appointed by the King's commission — language which is inaccurate in respect to this officer in the United States. So constitutionally is defined by Chalmers, legally, but in this country the distinction between constitution and law requires a different definition. In the United States, a plantation is a very different thing from what it is in England. The word marshal, in this country, has one important application unknown in England or in Europe.
A great number of words in our language require to be defined in a phraseology accommodated to the condition and institutions of the people in these states, and the people of England must look to an American Dictionary for a correct understanding of such terms.
The necessity, therefore, of a Dictionary suited to the people of the United States is obvious; and I should suppose that this fact being admitted, there could be no difference of opinion as to the time when such a work ought to be substituted for English Dictionaries.
There are many other considerations of a public nature, which serve to justify this attempt to furnish an American Work which shall be a guide to the youth of the United States. Most of these are too obvious to require illustration.
One consideration, however, which is dictated by my own feelings, but which I trust will meet with approbation in correspondent feelings in my fellow citizens, ought not to be passed in silence; it is this: — “The chief glory of a nation,” says Dr. Johnson, “arises from its authors.” With this opinion deeply impressed on my mind, I have the same ambition which actuated that great man, when he expressed a wish to give celebrity to Bacon, to Hooker, to Milton, and to Boyle.
I do not indeed expect to add celebrity to the names of Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jay, Madison, Marshall, Ramsay, Dwight, Smith, Trumbull, Hamilton, Belknap, Ames, Mason, Kent, Hare, Silliman, Cleaveland, Walsh, Irving, and many other Americans distinguished by their writings or by their science; but it is with pride and satisfaction that I can place them, as authorities, on the same page with those of Boyle, Hooker, Milton, Dryden, Addison, Ray, Milner, Cowper, Davy, Thomson and Jameson.
A life devoted to reading and to an investigation of the origin and principles of our vernacular language, and especially a particular examination of the best English Writers, with a view to a comparison of their style and phraseology, with those of the best American Writers, and with our colloquial usage, enables me to affirm with confidence, that the genuine English idiom is as well preserved by the unmixed English of this country, as it is by the best English Writers. Examples to prove this fact will be found in the Introduction to this Work. It is true, that many of our writers have neglected to cultivate taste, and the embellishments of style; but even these have written the language in its genuine idiom. In this respect, Franklin and Washington, whose language is their hereditary mother tongue, unsophisticated by modern grammar, present as pure models of genuine English, as Addison or Swift. But I may go further, and affirm, with truth, that our country has produced some of the best models of composition. The style of President Smith; of the Authors of the Federalist; of Mr. Ames; of Dr. Mason; of Mr. Harper; of Chancellor Kent; [the prose] of Mr. Barlow; of Dr. Channing; of Washington Irving; of the legal decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States; of the reports of legal decisions in some of the particular States; and many other writings; in purity, in elegance and in technical precision, is equaled only by that of the best British Authors, and surpassed by that of no English compositions of a similar kind.
The United States commenced their existence under circumstances wholly novel and unexampled in the history of nations. They commenced with civilization, with learning, with science, with constitutions of free government, and with that best gift of God to man, the Christian religion. Their population is now equal to that of England; in arts and sciences, our citizens are very little behind the most enlightened people on earth; in some respects, they have no superiors; and our language, within two centuries, will be spoken by more people in this country than any other language on earth, except the Chinese, in Asia, and even that may not be an exception.
It has been my aim in this work, now offered to my fellow citizens, to ascertain the true principles of the language, in its orthography and structure; to purify it from some palpable errors, and reduce the number of its anomalies, thus giving it more regularity and consistency in its forms, both of words and sentences; and in this manner, to furnish a standard of our vernacular tongue, which we shall not be ashamed to bequeath to five hundred millions of people, who are destined to occupy, and I hope, to adorn the vast territory within our jurisdiction.
If the language can be improved in regularity, so as to be more easily acquired by our own citizens, and by foreigners, and thus be rendered a more useful instrument for the propagation of science, arts, civilization and Christianity; — if it can be rescued from the mischievous influence of sciolists, and that dabbling spirit of innovation, which is perpetually disturbing its settled usages and filling it with anomalies; — if, in short, our vernacular language can be redeemed from corruptions, and our philology and literature from degradation; it would be a source of great satisfaction to me to be one among the instruments of promoting these valuable objects. If this object can not be effected, and my wishes and hopes are to be frustrated, my labor will be lost, and this work must sink into oblivion.
This Dictionary, like all others of the kind, must be left, in some degree, imperfect; for what individual is competent to trace to their source, and define in all their various applications, popular, scientific and technical, seventy or eighty thousand words! It satisfies my mind that I have done all that my health, my talents and my pecuniary means would enable me to accomplish. I present it to my fellow citizens, not with frigid indifference, but with my ardent wishes for their improvement and their happiness; and for the continued increase of the wealth, the learning, the moral and religious elevation of character, and the glory of my country.
To that great and benevolent Being, who, during the preparation of this Work, has sustained a feeble constitution, amidst obstacles and toils, disappointments, infirmities and depression; — who has borne me and my manuscripts in safety across the Atlantic, and given me strength and resolution to bring the Work to a close, I would present the tribute of my most grateful acknowledgments. And if the talent which he intrusted to my care, has not been put to the most profitable use in his service, I hope it has not been “kept laid up in a napkin,” and that any misapplication of it may be graciously forgiven. NOAH WEBSTER.
New Haven, 1840.
DEFINITION OF LANGUAGE.
LANGUAGE or Speech is the utterance of articulate sounds or voices, rendered significant by usage, for the expression and communication of thoughts.
According to this definition, language belongs exclusively to intellectual and intelligent beings, and, among terrestrial beings, to man only; for no animal on earth, except man, can pronounce words. The word language is sometimes used in a more comprehensive sense, and applied to the sounds by which irrational animals express their feelings or affections; as to the neighing of the horse, the lowing of the ox, the barking of the dog, and to the cackling and chirping of fowls; for the sounds uttered by these animals are perfectly understood by the respective species. So also language is figuratively applied to the signs by which deaf and dumb persons manifest their ideas; for these are instruments of communicating thoughts.
But language in its proper sense, as the medium of intercourse between men, or rational beings, endowed with the faculty of uttering articulate sounds, is the subject now to be considered.
Written language is the representation of significant sounds by letters, or characters, single or combined in words, arranged in due order, according to usage.
ORIGIN OF LANGUAGE.
We read in the Scriptures, that God, when he had created man, “Blessed them; and said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea,” &c. God afterward planted a garden, and placed in it the man he had made, with a command to keep it, and to dress it; and he gave him a rule of moral conduct, in permitting him to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, except one, the eating of which was prohibited. We further read that God brought to Adam the fowls and beasts he had made, and that Adam gave them names; and that when his female companion was made, he gave her a name. After the eating of the forbidden fruit, it is stated that God addressed Adam and Eve, reproving them for their disobedience, and pronouncing the penalties which they had incurred. In the account of these transactions, it is further related that Adam and Eve both replied to their Maker, and excused their disobedience.
If we admit what is the literal and obvious interpretation of this narrative, that vocal sounds or words when used in these communications between God and the progenitors of the human race, it results that Adam was not only endowed with intellect for understanding his Maker, or the signification of words, but was furnished both with the faculty of speech and with speech itself, or the knowledge and use of words as signs of ideas, and this before the formation of the woman. Hence we may infer that language was bestowed on Adam, in the same manner as all his other faculties and knowledge, by supernatural power; or, in other words, was of divine origin: for supposing Adam to have had all the intellectual powers of any adult individual of the species who has since lived, we can not admit as probable, or even possible, that he should have invented and constructed even a barren language, as soon as he was created, without supernatural aid. It may indeed be doubted, whether, without such aid, men would ever have learned the use of the organs of speech, so far as to form a language. At any rate, the invention of words and the construction of a language must have been by a slow process, and must have required a much longer time than that which passed between the creation of Adam and of Eve. It is therefore probable that language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God. We are not, however, to suppose the language of our first parents in paradise to have been copious, like most modern languages; or the identical language they used, to be now in existence. Many of the primitive radical words may and probably do exist in various languages: but observation teaches that languages must improve and undergo great changes as knowledge increases, and be subject to continual alterations, from other causes incident to men in society.
A brief account of the origin and progress of the principal languages, ancient and modern, that have been spoken by nations between the Ganges and the Atlantic Ocean.
We learn from the Scriptures that Noah, who, with his family, was preserved from destruction by the Deluge, for the purpose of re-peopling the earth, had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This fact, a little obscured by tradition, was retained by our rude German ancestors, to the age of Tacitus.1
Japheth was the eldest son; but Shem, the ancestor of the Israelites and of the writers of the Scriptures, is named first in order.
The descendants of Shem and Ham peopled all the great plain situated north and west of the Persian Gulf, between that Gulf and the Indian Ocean on the east, and the Arabic Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea on the west, with the northern coast of Africa; comprehending Assyria, Babylonia or Chaldea, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, and Libya. The principal languages or dialects used by these descendants, are known to us under the names of Chaldee, or Chaldaic, which is called also Aramean, Syriac, Hebrew, Arabic, Ethiopic, Samaritan, and Coptic. Of these, the Chaldee and Hebrew are no longer living languages, but they have come down to us in books: the Samaritan is probably extinct or lost in the modern languages of the country, but the language survives in a copy of the Pentateuch; the Coptic is nearly or quite extinct, and little of it remains; the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic are yet living languages, but they have suffered and are continually suffering alterations, from which no living language is exempt.
These languages, except the Coptic, being used by the descendants of Shem, I call Shemitic, or Assyrian, in distinction from the Japhetic. As the descendants of Japheth peopled Asia Minor, the northern parts of Asia, about the Euxine and Caspian, and all Europe, their languages have, in the long period that has elapsed since their dispersion, become very numerous.